Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Thursday evening that Israel is still working to retrieve the bodies of servicemen killed in the Gaza Strip six years ago, and that his government would not miss “a window of opportunity” to bring them home.
His comments, delivered by video during a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl commemorating the sixth anniversary of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, were harshly panned by Simcha Goldin, whose son Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was killed during the conflict.
“We are here to remember six years of continuing neglect and the prime minister decided not to meet us this year, because he has nothing to tell us,” declared Goldin, who has long been critical of Netanyahu.
Families of victims did not attend the official state ceremony, whose attendance was limited because of coronavirus-related health concerns. As a result, Goldin and other relatives erected a protest tent outside the venue.
He complained that organizers could have brought in “one representative of each family or held the event outside,” news site Ynet reported.
After the ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz went out to the tent to speak to the families.
After Goldin demanded “that you complete the mission and bring our boys back home,” Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge, replied that that his words were not “falling on deaf ears” and that “we will do everything in our power and more” to return his son.
However, Goldin was not satisfied and countered that “those are just words. You said that last year and all the preceding years. We are asking for actions, not words.”
Goldin has long protested what he sees as Netanyahu’s inaction. Last year, Goldin called for the government to take a much harder line against Hamas while standing next to a 10-meter tall inflatable rooster outside the Knesset.
“We need to change the equation in which Hamas kidnaps soldiers and uses them as an asset,” he said at the time. “We need to move to a situation where the kidnapping of soldiers constitutes a burden for Hamas: one which carries a heavy political and economic price. Peace in exchange for peace. Humanitarian moves for humanitarian moves.”
Hamas is currently holding the bodies of soldier Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war, as well as civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israelis who entered Gaza of their own accord.
The Hamas terror group late last month said that a precondition for any prisoner swap deal with Israel was the release of dozens of terror convicts cut loose in a 2011 exchange and since rearrested.
In a 2011 deal with Hamas, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian terror convicts in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been kidnapped in 2006.