Soldiers' families ask court for help

Truce terms leave some relatives of long-missed soldiers feeling betrayed by Israeli leaders.

Noam Schalit (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Noam Schalit
(photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
"An unbelievable saga is taking place," Pirhiya Heiman-Kfir told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "The families of men who went off to serve their country are forced to turn to the High Court of Justice because they cannot get redress from their government." Heiman is the sister of Yehuda Katz, one of three IDF soldiers taken captive by the Syrians at the battle of Sultan Yakoub during the First Lebanese War in 1982. Two weeks ago, she and her family petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the government to include the subject of Yehuda Katz in the peace negotiations and to demand that Syria divulge all the information it has about him and allow international organizations such as the International Red Cross to search for him. Now, the parents of Gilad Schalit, who has been held by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza for the past two years, are also likely to turn to the High Court for help. Bar-Ilan University law professor Ariel Bendor, who is one of the attorneys representing the Schalit family, told the Post that if the cease-fire agreement goes into full effect without the release of the Gilad Schalit, the family will also petition the High Court of Justice. According to Bendor, the critical point will be if and when Israel opens the border crossings and ends the blockade of Gaza. "Once that happens, the Hamas will have no incentive to return Schalit," said Bendor. "Hamas must agree to return Schalit in the framework of the cease-fire agreement, which includes the opening of the border crossings." Otherwise, it will be too late, he continued. "Hamas has a long list of other demands for Schalit's return which Israel will not be able to agree to." The list includes a demand to release Hamas terrorists with blood on their hands. What chance, in the final analysis, do petitions like the one the Katz family filed stand in court? According to Israel Radio legal commentator Moshe Negbi, the High Court has never intervened in a decision passed by a government majority having to do with foreign affairs and diplomacy. Specifically, it has turned down many petitions against the release of Palestinian prisoners over the past few years. But Attorney Yishai Sarid, who represents the Katz family together with David Schrim, told the Post that this petition was based on human rights - the right that a soldier has to be returned home and the responsibility of the government to do everything it can to make that happen. Sarid accused the government of "forgetting" the three missing soldiers and of not responding to a letter sent by the family demanding that the negotiators raise the issue with the Syrians. Bendor also said he believed that if the Schalits' petition the High Court, it will stand a good chance of being accepted because Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak lied to the cabinet by indicating that Schalit's release was part of the cease-fire deal. In fact, the government only obtained a guarantee that once the cease-fire went into effect, the sides would begin to negotiate Schalit's release. "From a legal point of view, the proper authority was misled," he said. "At the very least, the court should nullify the decision and order the government to vote on it again."