Families of remaining MIAs hope for sons' return

Relatives of 7 other IDF soldiers missing in action feel gov't has not done enough to bring sons back.

yehuda katz 88 (photo credit: )
yehuda katz 88
(photo credit: )
While Israel has secured the return of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, families of the seven other IDF soldiers who are missing in action feel the government has not done enough to bring their sons back. Relatives of the other captured soldiers understand the need for Wednesday's swap and appreciate the closure it gave the Goldwasser and Regev families, but believe that the government owes them the same effort on behalf of the other MIAs. Tirhiya Heiman, the sister of Yehuda Katz - who was captured in 1982 by Palestinian and Syrian forces at the battle of Sultan Yakoub, along with two other soldiers - said not enough attention has been paid to Katz's situation. "It's hard to talk about this swap," she said. "The government has a responsibility to its soldiers and citizens. I see how everyone is arguing about this trade. [Our families] have been talking for 26 years, and no one even thinks about us. The soldiers went into battle and the government is ignoring them and their families." Miriam Baumel, the mother of Zachary Baumel, who made aliya from the US at age nine and was also captured at Sultan Yakoub, said although the case of each prisoner was unique, deals such as Wednesday's encouraged terrorist organizations to kidnap soldiers. "It becomes an asset for our enemies to kidnap people here," she said. "A lot of the people who are opposing any type of future trade are being led by that fear. I would say to take each individual case at a time. Anytime that anything of that sort happens, everyone [offers] an opinion, when it's not their child [who is] involved." But Yoram Schweitzer, a senior researcher who heads the terrorism project at the Institute for National Security Studies and was involved in research on the status of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad, doubts the swap will prompt Hizbullah to perpetrate more kidnappings in the future. "There's an assumption that the [prisoner] trade encourages kidnappings," he said. "I think the price Hizbullah paid [in the Second Lebanon War] will make it hesitate before carrying out more kidnappings." If organized prisoner exchanges were carried out, Hizbullah would no longer have legitimacy to kidnap soldiers, Schweitzer said. Regardless of the consequences of this week's prisoner exchange, the families of MIAs expect the government to do more on their behalf. Rina Hever, the mother of Guy Hever, who went missing in 1997 near the Syrian border on the Golan, believes public opinion is driving the government's inaction regarding her son. "I feel horrible that they forgot Guy," she said. "Nothing has changed. They're not mentioning him. Our war is over public opinion and the media." Schweitzer said the government was not working to free the soldiers taken captive at Sultan Yakoub because there was no one on the other side with whom to discuss an exchange. "With Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, we had a definite partner," he said. "With [the captives of] Sultan Yakoub, we don't know who to talk to. That's the most important difference; if we knew who to talk to, we would make a deal."