Hamas Hardens Negotiating Position for Slain Soldiers

YERUSHALAYIM -
Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hamas announced on Sunday a hardening of its stance regarding negotiations for the return of Israel captives and the bodies of slain soldiers, saying that it will not engage in either direct or indirect talks until after Israel has released all of the prisoners in the Gilad Shalit swap who were rearrested in the wake of the killing of three Israeli teens in 2014.

Even then, Hamas said, the number of Palestinian prisoners who would be released in a deal for the bodies and the missing cannot be less than the number who were released for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel in 2011 released 1,027 terrorists in exchange for Shalit, who had been held hostage by Hamas for over five years.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in response, that Hamas can wait and wait for the release of their people, “but it won’t happen during my term as defense minister.”

Responding to stinging criticism by Leah Goldin, the mother of missing IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, that he was doing little if anything to retrieve the remains of her son, Lieberman said in a statement Sunday that he accepts the criticism of Goldin and the other families of missing soldiers, but that Israel could not afford “to repeat the mistakes we made in the deal to free Gilad Shalit.”

Israel in 2011 released 1,027 terrorists in exchange for Shalit, who had been held hostage by Hamas for over five years, “among them murderers and their handlers, including Mahmud Kawasme,” who led the 2014 kidnappings and murders of Israeli teens Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah – a prelude to Operation Protective Edge, a war against Hamas – “and Yahya Sanwar, the current head of Hamas in Gaza. I will continue to be personally responsible for the return of the missing Israelis Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as other Israelis who are being held prisoner in Gaza in contravention of international law. I see this as among the greatest things of importance morally, as part of our commitment to the families, the IDF, and the State of Israel,” Lieberman said.

In a weekend interview on Channel Two, Leah Goldin responded to the resignation of Lior Lotan, the government’s chief representative on hostages and missing soldiers. With Lotan out of the picture, the families – hers, and those of missing IDF soldier Oron Shaul, who like Goldin is presumed niftar, as well as the family of Avram Mengistu, who went missing in Gaza in 2014 – feel they have no one to talk to. “His resignation is not surprising given that for three years the government has been promising to bring our children home. Any opportunity for this to happen melts away as it arises.” Lotan, she said, “is a dear person who was injured when he tried to save IDF soldier Nachson Wachsman, and he is an expert negotiator. Any idea he had about bringing Hadar and Oron home was dissolved by the government, a victim of ‘friendly fire.’ He resigned because he, like us, is wondering who the real enemy is.”

Commenting on Lieberman’s role in the matter, Goldin said that he refuses to conduct negotiations with Hamas for return of the soldiers. “How does he think this is going to be accomplished? Negotiations for the return of soldiers took place after every war. We cannot say no to every proposal. What right does he have to send soldiers to war without the intention of bringing them home?”

In his statement, Lieberman said that “we must remember that 202 of the terrorists released in the Shalit deal have been re-arrested on further terror charges. “111 of them are currently in prison, and seven Israelis have been killed directly or indirectly by these terrorists.”