Families blast Turkey deal for failing to bring soldiers’ bodies home
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Families blast Turkey deal for failing to bring soldiers’ bodies home

Relatives of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul urge government to vote against rapprochement until Gaza returns remains from 2014 war

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein meets with the families of late Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein meets with the families of late Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The families of two soldiers whose remains are held in the Gaza Strip on Monday condemned the Israeli government for failing to secure the release of their sons’ bodies as part of the rapprochement deal with Turkey.

“Netanyahu cares for Gaza and not for our soldiers,” said Zahava Shaul, the mother of slain IDF soldier Oron Shaul. “Netanyahu has not kept his promises. It’s important that Netanyahu know that all of Israel is on our side, and every Jewish mother should know: tomorrow this could be you.

“This is not how you negotiate,” she added.

The family of Hadar Goldin, who was also killed in the 2014 Gaza war, condemned the “bad and problematic” deal, which they said “ignores the pain of the families and the fate of Israel’s heroes,” according to the Walla news website.

“The prime minister’s statements are hollow,” the Goldin family charged. They urged Israeli ministers to vote against the “bad” deal and ensure that the agreement hinges on Hamas’s return of the slain soldiers’ bodies.

The fathers of the two soldiers, Simcha Goldin and Herzl Shaul, both said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned them on Thursday. But Shaul said during the phone conversation the prime minister had promised to bring his son’s body home as part of the deal with Turkey, and Goldin maintained Netanyahu had updated him his son’s remains would not be included in the detente agreement.

“It isn’t worth waiting on the prime minister’s promises,” said Shaul. “He always promises and I am constantly disappointed.”

The Shaul and Goldin families met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein earlier Monday, before Netanyahu announced the deal that will normalize ties between Jerusalem and Ankara.

On Sunday, a senior Israeli official said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had written a letter pledging to help secure the release of the bodies.

During the meeting, Zahava Shaul said that it was unacceptable that the deal struck with Turkey didn’t include the return of her son’s remains from Hamas captivity.

Herzl Shaul, father of late Israeli soldier Oron Shaul stands at the protest tent outside the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on June 26, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Herzl Shaul, father of late Israeli soldier Oron Shaul stands at the protest tent outside the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem on June 26, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“If the prime minister and the Knesset and the whole cabinet aren’t with us, I don’t know when we’ll see Oron,” she said.

Edelstein said that everyone’s mission is to ensure the return of the four missing Israelis, including Shaul, but would neither praise nor criticize the agreement reached with Turkey because he had yet to see its final form. He said he would speak to Netanyahu upon the prime minister’s return from Rome, expected later Monday.

The families of Goldin and Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014, had long called for the government to make sure the return of their sons was included in the agreement. A fourth Israeli man is also being held in Gaza, according to officials.

A senior Israeli official on Sunday said Erdogan had written a letter committing Turkey to work toward their release as part of the deal.

IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)
IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)

“We asked for, and received, a document in which the Turkish president instructs the relevant Turkish agencies to work toward resolution of the issue of those kidnapped and missing,” the official said. “The document is in our hands, that’s what Turkey can do for now.”

The Goldin and Shaul families on Sunday set up a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in central Jerusalem as officials announced the deal with Turkey, which includes the normalization of ties and $20 million in compensation to Turkish citizens killed in a 2010 Israeli raid on a boat attempting to break the Gaza blockade.

The top-level security cabinet will vote on the deal on Wednesday, though some ministers have already said they are against the agreement.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he would oppose the Israel-Turkey detente deal in the cabinet, though he would not raise a ruckus.

“Compensation has bad consequences,” Channel 2 quoted him saying. “I won’t make a campaign of it as I did against the Shalit deal, but my stance is known.”

Criticizing Netanyahu for agreeing to compensate the families of Turks killed in the Mavi Marmara incident and not bringing home Israelis held captive in Gaza, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Monday the deal was “important,” but hedged his praise by saying Ankara “is the ally of Hamas.”

“Like in the [Gilad] Shalit incident and in Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu is weak against Hamas because over the years he’s given in to the political threats of [Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor] Liberman and has been dragged along unnecessarily at the expense of Israeli citizens’ security interests,” he said.

Other politicians also criticized the deal, though some said they would reluctantly accept it to reestablish ties with Turkey, once Israel’s closest regional ally.

Zionist Union No. 2 Tzipi Livni on Monday said she had to admit that she would have signed the same agreement if she had been in the coalition.

Meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin praised the accord to restore ties, saying that while many people feel hurt by the deal, “it’s for the sake of Israel’s interests.”

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said the deal with Turkey is “difficult to swallow, but states make agreements such as these.”

“There’s what we all feel and there’s the security and national interest, and they take precedence,” he said at a party meeting in the Knesset.

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