The father of a fallen IDF soldier whose body has been held by Hamas in Gaza since 2014 demanded on Wednesday that Jerusalem take a much harder line against the terror group to secure the release of his son and other Israelis.
Standing near a 10-meter tall inflatable rooster outside of the Knesset, Simcha Goldin, whose son Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was killed during Operation Protective Edge, declared that bringing home POWs can be done “without releasing terrorists.”
“We need to change the equation in which Hamas kidnaps soldiers and uses them as an asset,” he said. “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.”
He later told Channel 13 that “the fear that has been deeply ingrained among policymakers, after 40 years of dealing with kidnappings, has led to a situation where ‘abandoning soldiers on the battlefield’ is no longer a crude word. The enemy has won. You can leave soldiers on the battlefield.”
Goldin was speaking at a demonstration organized by a coalition of right-wing groups led by the hawkish Israel Victory Project, which is known for stunts such as erecting a billboard featuring a Speedo-clad Ismail Haniyeh next to Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway and quietly renaming Tel Aviv streets after Palestinian terrorists.
The group said that the chicken, which was emblazoned with the slogan “No more being afraid! Demanding Israeli victory,” was meant to symbolize the “cowardice of past policies against Hamas.”
The Goldins have long been critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to to return their son. Last month, Hadar Goldin’s mother Leah said that the premier has not done “anything” to bring back her son in the five years since his death.
The protest comes days after the mother of a second fallen Israeli soldier, Oron Shaul, also lambasted Netanyahu.
“The prime minister is not interested in returning my son,” Zehava Shaul said during a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.
“You’ve have had many opportunities to bring back Oron and Hadar, but you’ve done nothing,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that you keep playing with us. You know how to make a thousand promises, but not keep any of them. It’s unbecoming for a prime minister.”
The protests come on the heels on the five-year anniversary of the 2014 war in Gaza, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, in which Israel Defense Forces soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul were killed and captured by Hamas fighters. The terror group also holds captive Israeli civilians Avera Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
The bereaved parents of the soldiers have expressed repeated frustration with Netanyahu and his government’s efforts to negotiate the return of their sons.
In June, Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group reached a ceasefire agreement aimed at halting the launch of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Strip into southern Israel and reining in the general level of violence along the border, in exchange for a number of economic concessions.
According to Palestinian media reports at the time, Hamas sources said that Israel initially conditioned the negotiations on the terror group returning Goldin and Shaul’s bodies, but Hamas refused the demand.
Last month, the Goldin and Shaul families criticized Netanyahu again after he summoned them to his office, saying that “something very substantial had come up.”
The families said they thought the premier had convened the meeting to personally notify them of their sons’ return, but instead Netanyahu invited them to attend a United Nations conference to raise awareness for their plight.
Leah Goldin left midway through the meeting in tears, and later accused Netanyahu of hosting the gathering as part of his reelection campaign.