The wife of missing IDF flight navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing after his plane crashed over Lebanon 35 years ago, said the Mossad operation to locate his remains did not put operatives in danger.
Ron Arad's whereabouts remain unknown since close to his capture by the Lebanese Shi'ite Amal militia in 1986 during the first Lebanon war, despite repeated efforts to determine what happened to him. He was last heard of in 1987, and it was subsequently revealed, that he was handed over by Amal to the Iran backed Hezbollah terror group.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday revealed that the Mossad had recently carried out a mission to determine Arad's fate.
"It was a complex, large-scale and daring operation. That's all there is to say right now. We made another effort on the way to understanding what happened to Ron," Bennett said in a speech during the opening of the Knesset winter session.
Bennett came under attack by political opponents and some security officials for revealing the operation publicly, while others in the media criticized the government for sending Mossad agents into danger after Arad had been presumed dead for a number of years.
A separate report published in the Arab language news site Rai al-Youm on Tuesday, claimed the Mossad had kidnapped a former Iranian general and transported him to an African nation where he was interrogated on his knowledge of Arad's whereabouts. According to that report he was later released.
"No lives were put at risk," Tami Arad said in a Facebook post on Thursday. "I stand behind my words after discussions with the highest Mossad officials who convinced me of that fact," she wrote.
"I take this opportunity to state that over the years and the various operations carried out to find Ron, no lives of IDF soldiers or Mossad agents were lost. I don't know what reports to the contrary are based on," Arad said, "but I expect people who publish information relevant to matters of life and death, to check their facts," she said.
In an editorial published earlier this week, by columnist Rogel Alpher in the Haaretz daily newspaper, Arad was described as "not a particularly important soldier of the IDF.
"The Ron Arad case is an antidote that has grown in proportion to become a national symbol but is no more than a hot air balloon in Israel's ritual of grief," alpher wrote.
"I understand from the column that only important soldiers are worth saving," Tami Arad said in her post. "I don't know where Mr. Alpher served during his military career, but he must have missed the lessons on the values of the IDF. When soldiers are sent on a mission and are either hurt or captured, all efforts are made to retrieve them regardless of their rank and the importance of their position," Arad wrote.
Ron's plane was not shot down. It blew up as the result of a rare technical problem. He managed to eject himself and his pilot - who was later found and extracted - during the explosion, making him perhaps not a hero but a cool-headed soldier carrying out his duties. He was wounded at the time, perhaps to Alpher's regret, because in the eyes of the columnist, he became a burden for Israel," she wrote.
"I know from taking to other aviators in Ron's squadron, some of whom continue to put their lives on the line still today, that he has not been forgotten and the mission to determine his whereabouts continues." Arad wrote.
I invite the columnist to sign a document freeing the IDF and the government from the need to extract his own children from enemy hands, should they find themselves - dead or alive - in a similar situation during their service," she said.
"We, Ron's family have all continued with our lives but unlike Mr. Alpher, have not forgotten him nor have we given up on the chance that one day we will know what had happened to him," the aviator's wife wrote.
"In his column Alpher declares that there are no remains to burry. How can he know?" Arad asks. "I hope he never knows the grief of such a loss himself," she said.
"I don't expect empathy from the columnist, but I do expect a man who writes for a living, to think beyond his alter ego and beyond his provocations," she wrote. "Ron's story touches each and every soldier who enlists in the IDF. Although he has been missing for 35 years, he remains in the minds of Israelis, not in order to glorify his name, but so that all the "unimportant" service men and women know that they will not be abandoned by their country if they are in a similar situation, and that they will not be left behind.
"Alpher writes that the best way to honor Ron's memory is to leave him alone, out of the public's eye and the hands of political or public relations' cynics. I agree. Ron never sought the limelight. His dream was to pursue a carrier in science at the Weizmann institute.
We, his family did not want media attention either. But Alpher makes his living in the media and uses Ron's memory for his own needs, just like the cynics he warns against," Tami Arad wrote.