Negotiator: Israel should hold 200 Palestinians for each Israeli captive – Arab-Israeli Conflict

Ofer Prison.
(photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

For every Israeli soldier kidnapped by the enemy, Israel should hold 200 of their soldiers, Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, the former coordinator on the issue of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, said in recordings taped several months ago and aired on Army Radio on Monday.

“If the enemy is holding one of our soldiers, a war should end with Israel holding 200 of theirs. If it’s two then we should hold 400, if it’s three of ours then it should be 600 of theirs,” said Lotan, who resigned last week after three years in the position.

“It doesn’t mean that the problem will be solved but the formula will be different,” Lotan added, arguing that the policy would provide Israel with a “kidnap bank” that can serve as a bargaining chip.

The goal, he said, would be to deter terror groups against holding Israelis captive.

Israel routinely holds the bodies of Palestinians, both Hamas militants and assailants shot dead while carrying out attacks attacks during the two-year wave of violence in the West Bank and Israel. In December of last year, Israel’s security cabinet,decided that Israel will withhold the bodies of Palestinian militants killed in attacks against Israeli citizens.

“The security cabinet discussed ways to effect the return of fallen soldiers and of civilians held in the Gaza Strip… and decided that (the bodies of militants) should be buried, rather than returned,” a statement released at the time said.

Under the policy, the bodies would be buried in Israel and could be exhumed and handed back if Hamas was willing to strike deals with Israel.

Hamas is believed to be holding the bodies of missing IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul who were killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as well as two other Israeli citizens who voluntarily crossed into the Strip.

Last September, Lotan revealed that Israel offered to return the remains of 19 Hamas fighters, including one who took part in the attack in which Goldin was kidnapped, plus another 18 Palestinian militants taken into custody during Operation Protective Edge in exchange for the bodies of Goldin and Shaul.  Hamas declined the deal.

On Sunday Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that Israel will not repeat the “mistake” of freeing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for any Israeli citizen held in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, dead or alive.

Liberman added that before replacing Lotan it was important to “draw clear borders for the State of Israel and its emissaries and to especially stand firm against our enemies and make it clear to them that we have no intention of compromising on the security of the people of Israel.”

In addition to Goldin and Shaul two other Israelis, Abera Mengistu, an Ethiopian-Israeli, and Hisham al-Sayed, a Bedouin, are both believed to be held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Mengistu and al-Sayed both suffer from psychiatric disorders and both crossed into the Gaza Strip voluntarily. They have been missing for three years.

The cases of Mengistu and al-Sayed are viewed by Israel as a humanitarian issue unrelated to the cases of Goldin and Shaul, but Israel has made it clear that they hold the group responsible for the safety of both.

The militant terrorist organization has attempted to use all four as bargaining chips in negotiations for prisoner releases.

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