Family of Israeli Soldier Killed in Gaza Threatens to Involve High Court Over Netanyahu's Inaction

Relatives of Oron Shaul say they will petition the High Court of Justice unless the prime minister appoints a new coordinator for missing and captured Israelis

The families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin hold a press conference across from the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016.
Gil Eliahu

The family of an Israeli soldier who died during the 2014 Gaza war and whose remains are apparently being held by Hamas said Sunday that it would petition the High Court of Justice if the prime minister did not appoint a replacement for the official who had previously handled their case.

The Israel Defense Forces declared Oron Shaul killed in action although his place of burial is unknown. It came to the same conclusion with the case of Hadar Goldin, another soldier who fought and died in that conflict.

Lior Lotan, the man who spearheaded efforts to retrieve two Israeli civilians thought to be held by Hamas in the Strip and the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers who died there, quit six weeks ago after three years on the job. Lotan, who reported directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, resigned because he realized that talks with Hamas had reached an impasse and that the government was giving him very little room to maneuver.

After Lotan resigned, Netanyahu said that he would soon appoint another coordinator for missing and captured Israelis, asked his military secretary, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, to handle the matter in the meantime.

The Shaul family’s statement on Sunday attacked Netanyahu for not appointing a replacement for Lotan, despite his pledge to do so.

“We have been left without an official to specifically deal with the return of the boys, when one of the main issues on the agenda now is reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah,” the statement said. “The government of Israel is treating with contempt Israeli soldiers who went out to defend the State of Israel. It is inconceivable that for more than a month there has been no government official to deal solely with the issue of the missing and the captives. The fact that a new coordinator has not been appointed attests to the neglect of the government toward us and toward Oron, who has still not returned from the battlefield."

The Shaul family’s attorney, Yishay Sarid, said that if a new coordinator is not appointed in the next few days, the family would petition the High Court to instruct the prime minister to do so. “It is shameful that the government of Israel is neglecting the matter of the missing IDF soldiers. The long delay in appointing a coordinator increases the families’ suffering and hurts the chances of bringing back the boys,” Sarid said.

A senior Israeli official said in response that 10 days ago, on the eve of Yom Kippur, Netanyahu and Toledano met with the Shaul and Goldin families. “The prime minister updated the families and heard them out,” the senior official said. “The prime minister is dealing with it and is committed to bringing back the soldiers and civilians held in Gaza. The prime minister raises the matter in every diplomatic meeting, as he did recently with President Trump and Egyptian President al-Sissi. The prime minister is now interviewing candidates with the intention of appointing a new coordinator as soon as possible,” the official said.