‘Even As Foreign Minister No One Told Me About Hamas Captives’

MK Avigdor Liberman, Chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, said Thursday that he was surprised to learn from the press that Avraham Mengistu and a Bedouin citizen are being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Liberman said he had never been informed of the cases despite being a senior member of the Israeli government when Mengistu was taken captive.

“Even as Foreign Minister and a member of the [Security] Cabinet, we were not informed of the matter,” he told journalists as his faction toured the northern border. “I am concerned that this indicates that the lessons from previous cases were not learned.”

He added that he hopes that the people currently responsible for handling Israel’s security will closely follow the recommendations of the Shamgar Committee, which was appointed after the Gilad Shalit abduction. The committee recommended the adoption of policies that would keep Israel from paying disproportionately high prices for abducted citizens.

“Since the Jibril Deal,” he said, “we have paid high an unreasonable prices.” He was referring to the deal with Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP terror group in 1985, in which 1,150 terrorists were released in exchange for three IDF soldiers. In the Shalit abduction, Israel released 1,070 terrorists in exchange for a single captive, in 2011.

Liberman said that Hamas’s behavior in the case of the missing citizens is “an exact imitation of Hezbollah’s behavior.”

MK Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), who was also a member of the security cabinet in the previous government, also stated Thursday that the Cabinet was never alerted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about the case.

It wasn’t until former MK Pnina Tamano Shatta discussed Mengistu’s status with them that members of the Security Cabinet became aware of the situation.

According to Shatta, the Mengistu family was informed by the IDF that Avraham had entered Gaza, and that they were unable to stop him or retrieve him before Hamas terrorists abducted him.

Peri, former head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet), asserted members of the cabinet were “shocked” at the failure of the Prime Minister and IDF to inform them on the situation.

While the security cabinet was not informed right away about the situation, they, too kept the story quiet after receiving information.

When asked why, Peri said that “the first instinct in negotiating with Hamas is to do everything to keep their ‘price’ for the release of an Israeli down. When these things become public, the demands go up as pressure grows for the release of the kidnap victim.”

MK Nachman Shai (Labor), also a former member of the cabinet, confirmed Peri’s claims. “I see the failure of the leadership in informing the security cabinet, which is obligated to be informed of these things, as a serious breach of protocol.”

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