Yesterday, Europe’s foreign ministers met to discuss the recent violence on Israel’s border with Gaza. The working lunch concluded without the release of a joint statement, suggesting diverging opinions. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: While Ireland, for example, has expressed concern over Israel’s use of force, the Czech Republic has called Hamas’s attempts to rush the fence a form of terrorism. But while consensus eludes Europe’s finest diplomats, on one matter they ought to stand firmly united: It’s time to bring Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul back home.
Goldin, an IDF lieutenant, was abducted and almost certainly murdered by Hamas terrorists infiltrating Israel via a terror tunnel on August 1, 2014, two hours after a ceasefire, brokered by the U.S. and the UN, took hold. Reacting to this blatant violation of an internationally sanctioned agreement, then Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement, condemning “in the strongest possible terms today’s attack, which led to the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the apparent abduction of another. It was an outrageous violation of the ceasefire negotiated over the past several days, and of the assurances given to the United States and the United Nations. Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message.”
Against the ruling of the Geneva Conventions and the dictates of basic human decency, Goldin’s body is still held hostage by Hamas, as is that of Shaul, killed and kidnapped by the terrorist organization a few weeks earlier, in July of 2014. Ghoulishly, the terrorist organization occasionally releases songs in Hebrew, taunting the Goldin and Shaul families that they’ll never get to reunite with their fallen sons.
And so, the European Union or anyone else considering next steps in Gaza should begin by insisting that Goldin and Shaul be returned home to Israel. This isn’t just a humanitarian courtesy; it’s also common sense: An organization as disdainful of human life and dignity as Hamas is undeserving of any further aid or support until it begins to live up to the norms that the international community has so painstakingly carved out to regulate our conduct in a time of war.
Europe has real leverage now that an economic aid package to Gaza is likely to materialize soon. Delivering any relief without demanding accountability in return would be a mistake, further empowering Hamas to inflict more misery on Israelis and Palestinians alike. It’s rare, in a conflict as intricate as this one, for a clear-cut measure to present itself so starkly, but there we have it: Any real justice in Gaza must begin with justice for Hadar and Oron.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.