Olmert: Ron Arad Letter Should Not Have Been Made Public

PARIS - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, currently in Paris for a visit, confirmed yesterday that the family of missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad had received a letter he wrote years ago in captivity, as part of the latest exchange with Hezbollah.

"The reception of a letter from Ron Arad is very moving, but considering its highly personal nature, and since it was not intended for me, I did not read it," Olmert said.

He criticized the publication of the letter yesterday in Yedioth Ahronoth, saying: "I regret the publication, and think the public might have been spared it. Not everything has to be publicized regarding such sensitive matters."

Olmert declined to say whether Israel had new information regarding Arad's fate, or to address efforts to return Israel's kidnapped soldiers from Lebanon.

"We exerted great effort regarding Ron Arad, and shall continue to do so until we get an accurate picture of what happened to him," he said.

Olmert visited a Parisian park, part of which is named for Yitzhak Rabin, and looked at pictures of kidnapped IDF soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, erected by local Jewish community leaders.

They had wanted to hang a picture of Gilad Shalit, who holds dual Israeli- French citizenship, on the Paris Municipality, after the mayor displayed a large picture of Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian politician and French citizen who was abducted five years ago by Colombian revolutionaries while running for president.

The mayor refused, however, and the compromise was to display the pictures at the nearby Rabin Park.