Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that he is “committed” to returning the soldiers held in the Gaza Strip, local media have reported. Lieberman made his remarks after a press conference held by the parents of one of the Israeli soldiers being held in Gaza, during which they criticised the minister and called him “weak”.
“Israel has a cowardly minister of defence,” said the mother of Hadar Goldin. “He is good at talking but weak when it comes to action.” The Goldins held the press conference after the resignation of Israel’s chief negotiator with Hamas on prisoner issues. Yair Lotan said that it was an annoying and tiring position.
According to Ynet News, Lieberman responded by saying that he “accepts and loves” the criticism of the Goldin and Shaul families.
I continue to be personally committed to returning home Hadar and Oron, as well as our other citizens being held in the Gaza Strip.
He pointed out, though, that he considers the deal agreed between the Israeli government and Hamas in 2011 to release Gilad Shalit to have been plagued by “mistakes”. Among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal, he explained, were people who directly or indirectly carried out attacks against Israelis, noting that one of them, Yahya Al-Sinwar, is now the head of Hamas in Gaza and Mohamed Qawasmi is running action [sic] against Israel from Gaza. Israel rearrested 202 of the prisoners released in the 2011 deal; 111 of them are still in prison.
As far as the soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza are concerned, Lieberman called for the adoption of the conclusions of the 2012 Shamgar Report. This reiterated that Israel would never compromise its security and, according to Ynet News, called for stricter positions in negotiations over prisoner swaps.
The chairperson of Meretz political party, Zahava Gal-On, criticised Lieberman and said that he encourages the abandonment of soldiers who defended the country. She also said that Israeli citizens who spent 50 days in bomb shelters would never send their sons for military service after seeing the country abandon them.
Goldin’s mother recalled that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised her not to change the terms of negotiations while there are detained soldiers. “Netanyahu has kept this promise,” she added. “I ask the prime minister to continue to stand by it.”