The families of two fallen soldiers whose bodies are missing in the Gaza Strip held a press conference Monday afternoon to protest the fact that the reconciliation agreement with Turkey does not include the return of their sons’ bodies.
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The soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both went missing in action during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, and the Israel Defense Forces subsequently determined that they had been killed. But their bodies were never recovered.
Speaking at the protest tent the families set up opposite the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Hadar’s father, Simha Goldin, said they had met with members of the diplomatic-security cabinet Monday “to explain three things to them: Both families have a promise from the prime minister. He repeated it several times ... He promised us that in any negotiations connected to Gaza, in any such case, with any country in the region, the issue of our sons would be raised first and foremost, and all such negotiations would be conditioned on the return of our sons. We know such a condition existed in the past.”
Yet last Thursday, when the prime minister briefed the families on the impending agreement, “it became clear to both families that this provision doesn’t exist. We think that for the sake of credibility and the country’s fortitude, this condition must be restored to the agreement.” That would make the agreement “much better, much stronger and much fairer.”
“Hadar and Oron are a humanitarian problem, and we’ve been providing Gaza with humanitarian solutions for two years already,” Goldin continued. “Now, we’re letting the whole world – and especially Turkey, Hamas’ patron – aid Gaza. We must condition this on solving Israel’s humanitarian problem.”
Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mother, said that for both her family and the Shauls, the 2014 war never ended, because “two soldiers were left behind,” thereby violating the country’s and the army’s “supreme value.”
She stressed that the families support reconciliation with Turkey, but said it must include their sons’ return. She also said Israel must “make Hamas pay for kidnapping and holding our sons,” so that it would “stop these abductions.”
Zehava Shaul, Oron’s mother, echoed Simcha Goldin’s charge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had broken his promise to the families. She added that she hopes the diplomatic-security cabinet won’t approve the agreement.
“If they approve it, I don’t know when we’ll see Oron and Hadar,” she said. “It’s inconceivable that they sent them into Protective Edge and don’t know how to get them back ... This is no way to run a country. And every Israeli mother should know – today it’s me, tomorrow it could be you, or you, or anyone else.”
Oron’s father, Herzl Shaul, urged people to continue visiting the protest tent. He said the families might have to intensify their struggle, since “only yelling and a tough approach will bring our children home. The prime minister’s promises, I tell you – don’t bother waiting. He’s always promising me and I always end up disappointed ... He doesn’t take the bereaved families into account.”