November 28, 1993
HEADLINE: Rabin Urged To Condition Prisoner Releases On Return of Israeli MIAs
BYLINE: DAN PERRY
DATELINE: TEL AVIV, Israel
Relatives of six missing soldiers joined by a right-wing leader called on the government Sunday to avoid releasing Palestinian prisoners until Israel received information about its lost men.
Their news conference came amid mounting pressures from Palestinians for Israel to free thousands of prisoners as a condition for carrying out the Sept. 13 Israel-PLO Accord.
''It is not out of any badness of heart that we are asking that the Palestinian prisoners not be released at this time,'' said Yona Baumel, father of Zachary Baumel, who disappeared during a 1982 tank battle in eastern Lebanon.
''We want the Palestinian families along with our families to pressure the Palestinian leadership to release this information,'' of his son's whereabouts, Baumel said.
Of its six missing soldiers, Israel is reasonably certain that one, air navigator Ron Arad, is alive and in Iranian hands. Arad was shot down during a 1986 bombing mission in Lebanon.
Israel was informed two years ago during negotiations for the release of Western hostages held in Lebanon, that two other missing men, Yosef Fink and Rahamim Alsheikh, captured in 1986, had died. But their bodies were never recovered.
The cases of the other three including Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman, who disappeared 11 years ago, have been shrouded in mystery.
Baumel said he had a ''a wealth of information on the boys that places them alive.'' He did not give details.
He said that ''if the Israeli government released the thousands of security prisoners it holds there will be no incentive for the PLO to come up with this information, which by the way may be very embarrassing to it.''
Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu echoed the appeal.
''We should not release any more prisoners without conditioning this on our receiving .. at a very minimum, information on our prisoners,'' he said at a ceremony honoring the missing men.
''I believe such pressure will bear fruit (and) they will return,'' he said.
Environment Minister Yossi Sarid said the government ''does not miss a chance to raise the issue and even at this moment there are efforts being made around the world'' on the missing mens' behalf.
But Pirhia Hyman, Katz's sister, argued that the Palestinians were doing more for their prisoners than Israel.
''Arafat is demanding the release of even his enemies from the Hamas,'' she said, referring to the Palestinian group opposed to the peace accord. ''Only we are idly sitting by.''