"After two years of negotiating, we are at an impasse, and have been unable to facilitate a breakthrough,” said Gen. Hagai Topolansky, head of the IDF's Personnel Directorate, regarding efforts to redeem the bodies of captive soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul. The two soldiers fell during the 2014 Gaza War.
Topolansky made his statement Tuesday evening, Nov. 29, at an Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) event commemorating 30 years since the capture of Ron Arad. The event, initiated in collaboration with fellow members of Arad’s air training course, was held at Beit Hel Ha'Avir in Herzliya. Discussion focused on a country’s obligation to its soldiers and whether Israel should redeem captors at any price.
"If there is one thing worth remembering, it's that the state of Israel has long displayed a unique sensitivity to human life,” Topolansky said. “While many people see this as a weakness, it's in fact a source of our strength. The value we place on human life obligates us to take care of our citizens. In addition, it provides us with the moral sanction to send our soldiers into harm's way, since we will do just about anything to ensure their safety and care for their families."
David Meidan, who served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coordinator on the issue of POWs and MIAs, noted with regards to Goldin and Shaul: “Hamas understands that as long as there is pressure inside of Israel [to push for the release of captured soldiers] it can take a tough negotiating stance. .... In my opinion, the problem today is that there is a wall between Hamas and the Israeli government."
Speaking about the 2011 redemption of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, Meidan said, “All the assumptions regarding the deal are correct. There was a total intelligence failure with regards to Shalit. Since we never even knew where he was being held, our only option was to negotiate."
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, Director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, said, “Whoever approved the Shalit negotiations sentenced unknown Israeli families to death." Yadlin said he is opposed to negotiations for the release of captured soldiers, even when the agreed upon terms are better than those that led to Shalit's release.
For a full list of event participants, click here