Captive soldier's mother: I won't feel at ease until I hold my son
Miki Goldwasser says briefing following cabinet decision to approve Hezbollah swap lacked details, timetable.
The mother of one of the Israel Defense Forces reservists who were abducted by Hezbollah in 2006 said Sunday that though the cabinet had approved by an overwhelming majority the prisoner exchange deal that would see the return of her son, she will not feel relief until the deal was executed.
"I will feel relieved only when my son is back in my arms," said Miki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud Goldwasser, adding that the details of the deal were not specified in a meeting that followed the cabinet discussion, which aimed to brief the family members on what had transpired.
Miki Goldwasser also said that despite the cabinet's approval of the exchange she "still does not see it as a done deal."
The families of both Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the other kidnapped soldier, issued a statement Sunday praising the cabinet's decision to exchange prisoners with the Lebanon-based guerilla organization, and calling on the government to complete the exchange quickly.
"We welcome the government decision to approve the deal and we thank the [cabinet] members for holding an in-depth, poignant discussion," the families said. "In addition, we also expect a quick, complete end to the deal."
Shlomo Goldwasser, the father of Ehud Goldwasser, expressed satisfaction at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to support the swap. However, he took issue with the premier's declaration of the soldiers' death.
"We see this as a very positive step and we hope that we can understand this to mean the deal will be approved," Goldwasser said. "Nonetheless, the prime minister's position that the sons are not alive is unacceptable to us. We are talking about an assumption based on partial information, and so we are saying that even if there is an assessment that they are not alive, then we must bring them back home as soon as possible."
"We remain hopeful that the sons will return to us healthy and in one piece as long as there is no clear proof as to their condition," Goldwasser said.
Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud's wife, said Olmert's statements which declared her husband and Eldad Regev dead amounted to "a gaffe." She made the statements moments before the cabinet approved by a 22-3 majority a prisoner swap deal with Hezbollah.
She also expressed surprise that she learned of the cabinet's decision from the media, rather than getting official advance notice from the Prime Minister's Bureau.
Goldwasser's wife, who has traveled the globe meeting with world leaders in an effort to bring her husband home, said troops would be less willing to fight for their country if they sensed their country had wavered in its commitment to its soldiers.
"If they won't bring [the soldiers] back, I believe the message to the people here is that the country is not going to stand for them, and this is why people in this country are not going to stand for this country," Goldwasser told Associated Press Television News.
The families of the abducted soldiers were summoned to a meeting with Olmert after the premier presided over a cabinet meeting in which the government approved a prisoner swap with Hezbollah.
After being briefed on the cabinet's deliberations by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Karnit Goldwasser said that "After this past week, my heart hurts, it is difficult for me, I am tired and drained from within."
"I need at least two days in order to try and understand what happened here today and to try and think about how it will end," Karnit said in a broken voice.
Regarding the Prime Minister's announcement that the government is sure the soldiers were not alive, Goldwasser's wife said that "the Prime Minister doesn't say things without reason, however this assessment could be incorrect because this is different from the information we received."
The soldiers' families have mounted a concerted public campaign to get the government to vote for the swap. Family and friends demonstrated outside Olmert's office while the ministers were deliberating.
Within the framework of the deal approved Sunday, Israel has agreed to release the notorious Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar. Kuntar is currently serving four life sentences in Israel for the killing of 4 Israelis in a 1979 terror attack in Nahariya.
The sole suvivor of the Nahariya attack, Smadar Haran, sent a message to the cabinet ministers on Sunday prior to the vote, urging them to approve the deal. Kuntar was responsible for the death of Haran's husband and daughter, and she herself smothered her other daughter to death while hiding from her attackers.
"This abhorred murderer [Kuntar] is not, and never was my private prisoner," read Haran's message, delivered by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. "He is the prisoner of the state of Israel and his fate should be determined by the security interests as well as the moral and ethical interests dictated by its citizens both now and in the future."
"Even after suffering a terrorist attack, I am still connected to this country. I ask that my personal pain will not interfere with your dilemma and your decision regarding the prisoner exchange deal," wrote Haran.
"I will carry my own woes and longing for my loved ones, who were brutally taken from me, for as long as I live. I won't forget the suffering of the families, and my moral obligation to them. I have deliberated over these issues for an extensive period of time and I will not oppose any decision made here today."
Haran also wrote in her letter "kidnappings are a rolling strategic terror attack. Like when a stone is hurled into the water, the waves spread from the center outward and touch every single citizen of the country. This is not the first time that a decision needs to be made between conflicting values in the storm of events. I am aware of the fact that in each case, and for each decision, there will be a painful price to pay."
At a press conference following the cabinet's announcement of its decision, Haran went on to say that "on my way here I visited my family's graves with a broken heart, knowing that their killer may be released soon. I asked their forgiveness for failing to prevent his release this time."
"I don't have a monopoly over pain or suffering or even justice. Our shared fate hangs in the balance. We are all part of this country," she added.