Relatives of Gaza captives rally against Turkey deal as ministers meet

Relatives of Gaza captives rally against Turkey deal as ministers meet

Families gather outside Prime Minister’s Office, speak to ministers ahead of security cabinet discussion on disputed reconciliation with Ankara

Zahava Shaul, flanked by Herzl Shaul, left, and Simcha Goldin, right, speaks to the press in Jerusalem on June 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Zahava Shaul, flanked by Herzl Shaul, left, and Simcha Goldin, right, speaks to the press in Jerusalem on June 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Relatives of an Israeli man being held captive in Gaza and soldiers whose remains are also being held in the Hamas-run Strip protested in Jerusalem Wednesday as ministers convened to discuss a deal that would normalize ties with Turkey.

The parents of Sgt. Oron Shaul, who was killed in the 2014 war in the Strip and whose body is being held in Gaza, and family of Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014 and who is believed to be still alive, called on the top-level security cabinet to vote against the agreement with Turkey as it did not include guarantees for the return of their sons.

Several ministers have already said they would oppose the deal, which was signed Tuesday after six years of frayed ties with Turkey, though the vote is non-binding.

The parents of Hadar Goldin, who was also killed n the 2014 conflict and whose remains are also being held in Gaza, were not at the protest, but they sent a note to ministers calling on them to vote against the agreement, Channel 10 reported.

A fourth Israeli man, Hisham al-Sayed, is also being held in Gaza since 2015, according to Israeli officials, though his family has largely shied away from the public campaign waged by the other families.

The deal, which was signed earlier Tuesday, does not include Hamas returning either the bodies or its two prisoners, as hoped by the families of the missing.

Zahava Shaul, the missing soldier’s mother, told press that “we are here so that the ministers can look us in the whites of our eyes before voting on the deal,” the Ynet news site reported. “The fate of our children is hanging on the cabinet members’ vote. This is a last chance.”

Some of the ministers stopped their cars at the entrance to the compound in order to briefly speak with the protesters.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin left his vehicle to talk with the Shaul’s parents, as did Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Erdan assured the parents that he would “ask difficult questions” during the meeting, Channel 10 reported.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also spoke directly with the parents, as did Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

Bennett and Shaked had already said they would vote against the deal in the high-level security cabinet over their opposition to compensation for Turks killed by IDF soldiers in the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid and the absence of an agreement that Gaza would return the bodies of the soldiers killed.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, a strident critic of Ankara, also reportedly said he would oppose the agreement.

According to Channel 2, only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deri and Housing Minister Yoav Galant support the agreement.

Still on the fence are two of Netanyahu’s Likud colleagues: Erdan and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, as well as Kahlon.

The security cabinet is made up of nine government ministers, plus two non-voting ministers, and is in charge of forming and implementing foreign and defense policy.

Protesters said that Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz’s vehicle drove over a traffic island to circumvent the vehicles of other ministers who had stopped to speak with the demonstrators at the entrance.

Galant, who has said he will vote in favor of the agreement, exited his vehicle and stood before Shaul’s mother Zahava, but didn’t say anything, according to the Channel 10 report.

On Tuesday Hadar Goldin’s family sent a letter to all of the cabinet members stressing that the reprehensibility for returning the soldiers’ remains lies with their vote.

In the missive, the family wrote that it was incorrect to assume the current deal with Turkey is the only one that could be reached and that the prime minister had signed on the deal in an undemocratic manner by not first bringing it before the security cabinet.

The letter ended with a pointed question to the ministers: “Are you a rubber stamp?”

“The responsibility to return our sons is yours and dependent on your vote,” the Goldin family wrote.

Jerusalem and Ankara announced Monday the terms of a deal ending years of diplomatic stalemate between the eastern Mediterranean countries and heralding the normalization of ties. The terms includes $20 million to be paid in compensation by Israel over an IDF raid on a ship attempting to break the Gaza blockade in 2010 that led to the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens.

Once close, already frayed relations between Israel and Turkey were significantly downgraded in 2010 after Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship Turkish flotilla which was trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Strip.

The commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A tenth died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.

Families of the missing Israelis ramped up their campaign as the deal was announced and on Tuesday met with Netanyahu together with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was in the country on a visit to the region.

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