The Jerusalem Post
Leah Goldin to Bennett: No Qatari cash for Gaza unless our sons are freed
Israel must insist on linking the entry of Qatari cash into Gaza with Hamas’s release of the IDF and civilian captives, Leah and Simha Goldin told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday when they held their first meeting with him.
“Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Leah and Simha told him. Their son Hadar Goldin, along with Oron Shaul, are presumed to have been killed in the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas has yet to return their bodies or to release the two Israeli captives believed to be held in Gaza, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had allowed Qatar to transfer cash payments to Gaza worth roughly $30 million in periodic installments.
Israel halted that practice in the aftermath of the 11-day Gaza war in May, known as Operation Guardian of the Walls.
Bennett has insisted in linking the issue of cash for Gaza and its rehabilitation in general from the war to the return of the Israeli soldiers and civilians, a move which Hamas has rejected and which has garnered very little support in the international community which believes that the two issues should be separate.
In Bennett’s first meeting with Leah and Simha, the couple urged him to stand firm on the matter.
Handle the matter “differently” than Netanyahu did, “make the return of the soldiers and the civilians a condition for everything,” Leah and Simha said.
“We have failed at this for seven years, now is the time to fix it,” they added.
Bennett told Leah and Simha that he would be in contact with them regularly and that his door was always open to them.
The meeting was Bennett’s first with the Goldins since he took office last month. The Prime Minister’s Office said the conversation was conducted within the framework “of periodic meetings held by the Prime Minister to update the families of the POWs and MIAs.”
The meeting also included National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, POWs and MIAs coordinator Yaron Bloom and the Prime Minister’s military secretary,
Brig.-Gen. Avi Bluth.
It comes in the midst of an intense diplomatic push to find a mechanism by which Palestinians in Gaza can benefit from Qatari cash donations and through which construction material can enter Gaza as part of an overall drive to arrive at a cease fire agreement.
Egypt has brokered indirect talks between Israel and Hamas with the help of the United Nations, Qatar, the United States and the European Union.
The fear is that failure to broker a deal would reignite another round of Hamas-IDF violence, something that the international community is keen to avoid.
To help ensure that the issue of the captives, including her son, remains on the agenda, Goldin met last month with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York, along with former president Reuven Rivlin who was serving his last week in office.
At issue is not just the hostages but fear that Hamas would confiscate the money and construction material for military use.
Public Safety Minister Omer Bar Lev told Army Radio earlier this week that Bennett is working on a mechanism to prevent that, which would include a voucher system.
But not all Qatari payments are on hold. Last month a Qatari donation of $10m. to pay for fuel for Gaza’s power plant was approved.