This weekend, a delegation of senior Hamas officials from the West Bank and elsewhere was allowed into Gaza to confer with the terror group’s leadership there, a highly uncommon step designed to help facilitate a ceasefire with Israel. But as Hamas’ chiefs convened in secrecy—no cellphones or bodyguards were allowed into the room, in an effort to keep the details of the discussion from leaking—a few bereaved Israeli families gathered on the other side of the border to demand that any future arrangement with Hamas begin with the terror group returning their sons from captivity.
A brief reminder: Early on Aug. 1, 2014, nearly a month into Hamas’ war on Israel, a 72-hour ceasefire brokered by the United States and the United Nations went into effect. Hamas waited two hours, then took advantage of the quiet to infiltrate Israel through one of its ghoulish terror tunnels, murdering two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third, Hadar Goldin, almost certainly killing him as well. The organization currently holds Goldin’s body, along with that of another Israeli soldier, Oron Shaul, as well as two Israeli citizens who are reportedly alive. This is a blatant violation of every available standard of international law, not to mention basic human decency.
In their press conference, the Goldin and Shaul families addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in harsh words, demanding that no ceasefire negotiations begin before their loved ones return home.
“Netanyahu has to say today, in a clear and unequivocal way, that in any future ceasefire, soldiers and citizens return first and foremost,” said Dr. Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mother. “We won’t put up with this continual betrayal of the values of Israeli society.”
“I’m calling on the Prime Minister: Bibi, learn from Trump,” she added. “There should be no arrangement without reciprocation.”
Dr. Goldin did not go into further details, but her suggestion is instructive. No matter how one feels about the American president, a recent account, in GQ, of his handling of the Otto Warmbier case—the American student detained and tortured by the North Koreans—should indeed serve as a primer to Netanyahu. According to the report, sourced to State Department officials, as soon as Trump learned of Warmbier’s deteriorating health—he would eventually succumb to his ailment—the president ordered that no effort be spared to bring the young man back home. The North Koreans, the sources report, were simply unilaterally informed that an American plane would soon land in Pyongyang, and that on it were doctors instructed to bring Warmbier back home. It happened just that way. “The president was very invested in bringing Otto home,” one official involved in the case told GQ. “Listening to him deliberate on this, he sounded to me a lot more like a dad.”
Bibi should follow this example. The return of Goldin, Shaul, and the others should precede any future negotiation with the terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated similar ceasefires in the past. If Hamas cannot abide by basic humanitarian standards, it cannot be counted upon to abide by much else.
Sadly, sources close to Netanyahu are trying to deflect attention from this issue by saying that the ceasefire is just a tactical development and that Goldin and Shaul’s fate will definitely be a part of some future “broad arrangement.” That is just more rhetoric. Even if you disregard the fact that Hamas needs the ceasefire much more desperately than Israel does, you’re left with an unshakable moral obligation not to hold one more minute of talks until those violently murdered and abducted are allowed to reunite with their loved ones. Netanyahu cannot be allowed to capitulate on this point.