Liberman: Despite Difficulty, Israel Expects Return of Missing Soldiers’ Bodies

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that Israel would do “everything possible” to return to Israel the bodies of IDF soldiers lost in action in Gaza – and any inference otherwise from comments he has made are incorrect.

“The army is fully committed to ensure that anyone in captivity is returned home,” Liberman said in a speech in the northern Druze town of Daliat al-Carmel. “The more we talk about this the more difficult the mission. This is one of those things that it is better to remain quiet on.”

The bodies in question are those of Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, and Oron Shaul, Hy”d, who went missing in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Goldin was last seen being dragged into a Hamas terror tunnel, after he was shot in a battle with terrorists during Operation Protective Edge. He is presumed to be dead, but Hamas is believed to still have his body. The Goldin family, along with the family of IDF officer Oron Shaul, who also went missing in that same battle, demanded that Israel refuse to close its reconciliation deal with Turkey unless Ankara pressured Hamas to release the bodies, but the government did not do so. The two were declared last year as having been killed in battle. Also missing in Gaza and presumed alive is IDF soldier Avraham Mengistu, who was captured by Hamas in September 2014, at the end of Operation Protective Edge.

On Tuesday, Channel Ten said that Liberman had told advisers in closed meetings that there was very little likelihood that Israel could recover the bodies of the soldiers, since he was not willing to release terrorists for the soldiers, as Hamas demands. On a visit to southern Israel Sunday, Liberman said that he did not believe Hamas would release the bodies without such a deal.

But Liberman said Wednesday that he had did not mean that Israel would never recover the bodies. “I did not say that we would never see them again, not in a closed meeting, an open meeting, or in my sleep,” he said, declining to specify how Israel would retrieve the bodies in lieu of an exchange for terrorists. “It’s no secret that I voted in the cabinet against the deal to release terrorists for Gilad Shalit, and I do not regret that decision in hindsight. Some of the terrorists released have gone right back to terror activities.” It’s likely that the same thing would happen in a new deal, he added.