Abducted soldier's mother: Politicians seeking clout off our sons' backs
Miki Goldwasser responding to those opposed to releasing prisoners with 'blood on hands' in exchange.
Objection to easing the criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners stems from politicians' desire to gain favor and political clout in the eyes of constituents, the mother of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Ehud Goldwasser said on Tuesday.
Miki Goldwasser, whose son was abducted by Hezbollah militants in the July 2006 incident that sparked the Second Lebanon War, was speaking at a rally held for abducted soldiers at the Emek Yizreel College.
A special ministerial forum examining the criteria for releasing Palestinian security prisoners appeared on Monday to have secured a majority in favor of relaxing the conditions, to include prisoners with "blood on their hands." Several MKs have voiced their opposition, including MK Israel Hasson (Yisrael Beiteinu), who said that "the question is not what the families of the abducted soldiers say, but what the families of fallen soldiers say."
Goldwasser said that she "wants to scream out loud: return our soldiers who have been taken hostage by no fault of their own. Someone was responsible for their abduction. They don't need to bear the consequences. They bear indescribable suffering by groups of cruel people. Who knows what they're going through every second of every day, for a year and a half already."
Goldwasser also addressed efforts to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted on the Gaza border three weeks before her son was kidnapped in the north. Regarding opposition to relaxing criteria for freeing prisoners, she said, "I ask, how would they react if their child was the one who was abducted, and not my child? It's very easy to reap political profit off of someone else's back."
The current conditions for freeing security prisoners were set by the Shin Bet security service in the prisoner exchange of 2004 that freed Elhanan Tannenbaum.
Defense officials have said that no senior Hamas prisoners could be released in an exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit without changing the present criteria that prohibit the release of prisoners with "blood on their hands."
The ministerial forum convened Monday and is expected to meet again on Wednesday. The ministers hope to have their recommendations ready by the end of next week, to present to the ministerial committee on prisoner release and the political-security cabinet.
The forum is authorized to formulate recommendations, not to make operative decisions. "The final decision regarding the criteria will be given a broader forum," a source said.
Monday's meeting included a briefing from Ofer Dekel, the government's point man on efforts to free Israel's kidnapped soldiers, who spoke about his recent talks in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials. The meeting was attended by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, and Minister without Portfolio Ami Ayalon.
Ramon is willing to be flexible over relaxing the criteria for a prisoner release, Dichter is open to discussion on the matter and Ayalon also supports flexibility, "strictly for the purpose of a deal to release Gilad Shalit," who was abducted by in June 2006 by Gaza Strip militants.
Friedmann is reportedly opposed to easing the criteria, as is the Shin Bet.