President Reuven Rivlin, known for his warm, open manner and willingness to see both sides of a story, this time is not moving a muscle.
Rivlin told United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nicolai Mladenov in their meeting on Wednesday that Israel won’t help rebuild Gaza until Hamas returns the remains of two fallen IDF soldiers whose bodies are still being held hostage.
“Hamas is ready for the time being not to kill Israelis; they are willing to wait,” he acknowledged. “But before there is rebuilding, they have to give us back our sons. We know that their task to get rid of us is still on their agenda. Each side has to build confidence in the other.”
Lt. Hadar Goldin and St. Sgt. Oren Shaul both lost their lives last summer in Gaza while fighting in Operation Protective Edge, the counter terror war launched to silence the rocket fire and destroy the smuggler tunnels aimed at southern Israel.
Both of their bodies were stolen by Gaza terrorists during the heat of battle, and the terror group has refused to return them, thus preventing their grieving families from burying their dead loved ones. It is an especially cruel way to torture a parent, a method used as often as possible by Iranian-sponsored terror groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
The Goldin family, who met two days ago with the president, requested that Rivlin raise the issue every time he meets with any foreign dignitary and any time the issue of helping Gaza is suggested.
Rivlin also told Mladenov during their meeting that ultimately, Israel would be willing to cooperate with the UN in rebuilding Gaza but noted that few others have kept their promise to do the same. “Everyone is willing to help, but no one is helping,” he observed.
The president also reminded that previous deliveries of concrete and iron intended for construction went badly astray. Literally millions of dollars’ worth of construction supplies intended to rebuild homes and infrastructure for the people of Gaza following previous wars ignited by their terrorist rulers were confiscated and used to build underground bunkers for terror leaders, rockets, mortars and terrorist tunnels.
Part of that network, which Hamas and its allies used to great advantage during last summer’s war, was dismantled by the IDF. But much of it still remains within the enclave and Hamas is intent on rebuilding the rest.
Mladenov responded that it is important to rebuild Gaza as quickly as possible, not only to address the lack of housing, but also to create jobs and opportunities so that Gazans “will be drawn away from radicalism.”