The mother of a soldier whose remains are being held captive in the Gaza Strip accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of working harder to free an Israeli backpacker jailed in Russia on drug charges than he has to bring back her son.
The charge from Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar Goldin was killed in the 2014 Gaza war, came days after Netanyahu took a highly publicized detour while returning from Washington to bring Naama Issachar back to Israel after she was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin following intensive diplomatic efforts.
“How can he [justify] mov[ing] heaven and earth for Naama [Issachar] – a criminal who received a pardon – while doing nothing to return the soldiers,” Goldin asked in a Channel 12 interview.
Hamas is believed to be holding the remains of Goldin and fellow soldier Oron Shaul, both killed during Operation Protective Edge.
Talks for their remains, and living Israelis being held by the terror group, have failed to reach any breakthroughs in over five years, despite high levels of public sympathy for their cause. Goldin has become an increasingly vocal critic of Netanyahu in recent years.
Issachar, 27, was arrested during a layover in Moscow in April after nearly 10 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage, and later sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.
Sh was freed Thursday after the personal intervention of Putin, partly at the behest of Netanyahu, who publicly pushed the Kremlin on the issue and helped make her case into a cause celebre.
Goldin said she bore no ill will toward Issachar. “I understand her mother and am excited with her and cry with her. But my heart remains bitter because my son was sent by Netanyahu to Gaza he has remained there for 2,000 days.”
Goldin also blasted Israel’s efforts to achieve a longterm ceasefire with Hamas, saying no deal should be made to ease the blockade on the Strip without the return of those being held in Gaza.
She said Israel was already taking action to list the blockade even as rocket fire on the south continued. The border in recent days has seen near daily instances of missiles being shot out of the enclave, prompting Israeli reprisal airstrikes.
Israel has refused to acknowledge reaching or negotiating any deals with Hamas for calm. Netanyahu has vowed in the past that no deal would be inked with Hamas if the soldiers and three civilians currently held in Gaza were not returned.
“Anyone who arrives at Erez or Kerem Shalom Crossings will see the ceasefire agreement right before their eyes – goods and equipment passing through that everyone knows will be used to build [terror] tunnels, but no one is asking for the soldiers,” Goldin lamented.
Responding to the criticism, the Prime Minister’s Office asserted that it is working “tirelessly” to bring back the bodies of the fallen soldiers.
“In order not to damage the negotiation channels, we cannot elaborate on the content of the major diplomatic talks and efforts,” the PMO added.
On Saturday night Israel announced it was taking the rare step of suspending cement imports into Gaza in response to the cross-border violence.