By: Ilan Evyatar/TPS
Israel must not repeat the mistakes made in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange with Hamas, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday in the wake of criticism directed against the government following Thursday’s resignation of Lior Lotan, the government official charged with negotiating the release of Israeli civilians held by Hamas and the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war.
After Lotan’s resignation, the family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, one of two Israeli soldiers whose bodies are believed to be held by Hamas, said the government had let them down.
“Following Lior’s resignation, we feel that we have been abandoned by the government,” the family said in a statement. “Lotan’s resignation comes as no surprise, given recent events. Beyond the words ‘the government is doing everything to bring back Hadar and Oron [Shaul]’ the sad reality is that nothing has been done to bring the boys back.”
Liberman said that while he accepted the criticism of the Shaul and Goldin families “with understanding and with love,” he added that Israel would no longer participate in lopsided prisoner swaps in which large numbers of terrorists are released. He said that Israel must adopt the recommendations of the Shamgar Committee, which was formed in 2008 to create guidelines for prisoner exchanges. The Committee’s recommendations have not been made public and have yet to be formally adopted.
The minister said he remains “personally committed” to bringing back Hadar and Oron and the Israeli civilians held in Gaza, but also noted that many of the terrorists who have murdered Israelis in recent years were included in the 1,027-for-one deal to obtain Shalit’s release. Those releasees included “murderers and those who sent them; including Muhammad Kawasme, who was freed to the Gaza Strip only to fund the kidnap of the three teens [Gil-Ad Sha’er, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who were murdered after being kidnapped while hitchhiking near Alon Shvut in the Etzion bloc]; and Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza [who served 22 years of a life sentence for masterminding the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers] who is now making exorbitant demands that are preventing a deal.”
Liberman noted that seven Israelis had been murdered “with the direct or indirect involvement” of Palestinians released in the Shalit exchange and that 202 Palestinians released in the deal have been rearrested.
“Therefore,” Liberman said, “before appointing a replacement for Lior Lotan,” it is important to adopt the Shamgar Committee’s recommendations in their entirety and thus to draw a clear framework for the state of Israel and its envoys, and in particular to stand firm against our enemies and to clarify to them that we have no intention of compromising on Israel’s security.”
In addition to the bodies of Goldin and Shaul, Hamas also holds three Israeli civilians: Avera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Abu Ghanima. All three suffer from mental illness and are believed to have crossed into Gaza of their own volition.