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Copyright 2002 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

July 19, 2002

HEADLINE: Knesset advances MIA information bill

BYLINE: Nina Gilbert

A Knesset initiative to require the government to obtain information on the whereabouts of missing soldiers as a condition for signing peace accords was launched Wednesday with the passage of a bill in preliminary hearing.

Likud MK Dan Naveh withdrew a similar bill two years ago when he was an opposition MK under pressure from prime minister Ehud Barak. The new bill was approved in a 33-8 vote yesterday.

Naveh the governments liaison to the Knesset, said the government has decided to back the bill,adding that its main importance is to send a message that the Knesset is united on the issue and is determined to obtain the information.

The unresolved situation of the missing soldiers is "an unending nightmare" for the families, Naveh said.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not attend the vote.

The bill was presented yesterday by Likud MK Ze`ev Boim, and it has been updated to include the names of the soldiers who were abducted from the northern border in October 2000, businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum, abducted shortly afterwards,and Guy Hever, who disappeared from the Golan Heights border in 1997.

According to the bill, the government may not sign a peace deal with Syria, Lebanon, or the Palestinians unless it has obtained from them the information they have on the missing.

When the prime minister brings the accords to the Knesset, he must announce that he has been supplied the information to his satisfaction.

Boim said the requirement to demand information is the least the government owes the families of the missing.

Labor faction leader Efi Oshaya said he opposed the bill because it inhibits the government`s abilities to negotiate peace accords. The other opponents to the bill were MKs from Meretz. Labor members Avraham Burg and Ophir Pines-Paz abstained, and the rest of the faction did not attend the vote.

Rivka Baumel, whose uncle Zachary has been missing since the Sultan Yakoub battle in Lebanon in 1982, said it is time for the Knesset to "do something for the missing soldiers", three years after the US congress approved a law requiring the US to raise the matter of Israel`s soldiers with Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.

The US law was passed at the initiative of her grandfather -Yona Baumel, a US citizen.

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