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Copyright 1996 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post

March 19, 1996


BYLINE: Shayna Schechter

Watching last Wednesday's extravaganza in Sharm e-Sheikh, my thoughts returned to some very different images I had seen the day before.

In my job as a videotape editor, it had been my task to edit the 'online' or final version of a 10 - minute documentary on our missing soldiers.

The program featured a review of the Ron Arad capture, interviews with the parents of Zacharia Baumel, Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Yosef Fink. Plus comments on the situation by former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky and a member of the Israeli intelligence community.

To see the years of agony etched in every line of those parents' faces was itself agony. Yet the knowledge that it had been necessary for them to develop their own intelligence networks and fly around the world themselves searching for answers in the cause of finding their missing children was even more unbearable.

A dreadful series of mistakes, delays, lost opportunities, and lack of plain resolve on the part of various governments has led to the virtual abandonment of these soldiers who wore their IDF uniform with pride.

The facts today are clear, according to the vast amount of information gathered by the families: Some of those boys are still alive, held by people who probably believe that what they are doing is right in furthering their particular cause.

It's the same kind of motivation, I guess, that compels someone to blow himself up on a crowded street corner on a bus, taking dozens of ordinary men and women and children along with him. And certainly, given the fact that after 20 solid years of blood curdling international terrorism, the PLO is now in the process of achieving its goals, the motivation might be that if you do what they did and then 'repent', you'll get what you want, too.

So I looked at all those peace makers sitting around that hastily-built table and wondered how many of them could get our boys (men now, after nearly 14 years in captivity) returned home. It's a chance for the bad guys holding them to turn into good guys, and a chance for those 29 peacemakers to prove they can put their money where their mouths are.

They are in a position to make deals, put pressure, and negotiate for the return of our people. And it would seem only logical that in an era of peace and openness some head of state out there could make the right contacts and get results. But logic seems far removed from the Middle East, and it is particularly foreign to the peace process.

Giving tangibles in return for promises doesn't cut it in many other places, but it's the norm here. The release of prisoners held in Israeli jails, something Arafat demands at every negotiation and mass rally is an excellent example. They are - or were a great bargaining chip.

We've released many thousands of Arabs who, but for their bad aim, would be murderers. Isn't it time our giving government finally demanded something tangible in return for all that giving? Isn't it time all of us demanded that our peacemaking prime minister give those tormented families some peace at last?

Anyone who had seen their tortured faces and heard them describe their daily nightmares wouldn't have been able to sit and watch the 'event' in Sharm without wanting to jump up an demand some 'confidence building measures' on the PLO side for a change.

Anyone who heard stories these families' journeys throughout the Arab world would know what our government already knows, but apparently doesn't act upon.

The PLO was one of many organizations holding some of our soldiers. Arafat had Zacaharia Baumel's dogtag, and he and his friends know a lot more than they are telling.

So before the closure is lifted, before the talks and the one sided giving continues, how about it Shimon? Ask your friend Yasser a favour, and bring the boys home.

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