Families: Cabinet Vote on Turkey Deal ‘Last Chance’ to Bring Soldiers Home

Israeli soldiers seen mourning during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin at the military cemetery in Kfar Saba on August 3, 2014,. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli soldiers seen mourning during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin at the military cemetery in Kfar Saba on August 3, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a last-ditch attempt to derail the prospective reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey, members of the families of missing IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul stationed themselves outside the Prime Minister’s Office to ask ministers to vote against the deal. The family members distributed letters to the ministers who were on their way into the meeting to vote on the deal, with the decision to approve it expected to emerge later Wednesday.

In the letter, the families wrote that “Turkey needs this agreement like it needs oxygen to breathe, because it is in so many disputes with so many countries. The Prime Minister has turned Hamas into a party in this agreement, via Turkey, which is now ‘adopting’ Hamas and providing it with its needs and assisting it by making life easier in Gaza. In this way the Prime Minister is aiding terrorists and giving Hamas a prize for its terror behavior.”

Goldin and Shaul went missing during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, when witnesses saw their bodies dragged through the opening of a Hamas terror tunnel. The two were definitely killed in battle, the IDF said, but earlier this month their status was redefined and they were declared as also being “missing in action, and in captivity.” Hamas is believed to be holding at least some of the remains of both soldiers. Other remains were buried in 2014 in state funerals. Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu, along with a Bedouin-Israeli, were captured by Hamas in September 2014, at the end of Operation Protective Edge. Hamas originally claimed that Mengistu had entered Gaza willingly and that he had been released to live as a civilian there, but later confirmed that it was holding him and the second individual.

As part of the agreement, Israel is allowing Turkey to become more active in Gaza, taking on projects such as the construction of a power plant. An appendix to the agreement declares that Turkey and Israel will do everything possible to return to Israel the three missing IDF soldiers but the families of the soldiers consider this insufficient.

So far, at least three ministers – Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked – have said that they will vote against the deal. On their way into the meeting Wednesday morning, Bennett and Shaked stopped to chat with the families. So did minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri and Ze’ev Elkin, although they have not made any declarations yet. Also said to be undecided is Gilad Erdan, although he is expected to support the deal.

Speaking at the demonstration, Zahava Shaul, mother of the missing soldier, said that the families encouraged ministers “to look into their hearts before approving this. We ask that the agreement include one more section, that relates to the return of our children. The fate of our children is now in the hands of the ministers. This is our last chance.”