Families lobby EU to push for kidnapped soldiers’ release
Delegation of kidnapped soldiers’ family members hold meetings in Brussels with top European representatives; 5,000 attend rally demonstrating for the captives’ release. In emotional speech, mother of Ehud Goldwasser pleads: Nasrallah, if you have a heart, release our sons
In an emotional appeal addressing a rally at the European Parliament building in Brussels Wednesday, Miki Goldwasser pleaded for the release of her son, kidnapped Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser.
“Udi, my son, I haven’t seen you for two months. I don’t know if you’re alive, hurt, if someone is treating your wounds. I don’t sleep at night when I think about the cold in Lebanon. Is someone covering you? My days aren’t days and my nights are nightmares. I appeal to (Hizbullah chief Hassan) Nasrallah: If you have a heart, and I believe you do, I call on you to return our sons. This isn’t politics. This is a basic issue of humanity,” she said, her face streaming with tears.
There was barely a dry eye among the 5,000 attendants of the rally, hosted by the families of the three kidnapped soldiers – Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit.
“The captives’ families managed to touch the hearts of the Europeans. They came and reminded (Europe) that they are the ones responsible for UN Resolution 1701 (the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Lebanon), the implementation of which is thus far one-sided,” noted a member of the Israeli delegation in Brussels.
Following the rally, the families held a series of meeting with senior Belgian and European officials.
Members of the delegations especially noted the moving words of Ehud’s wife, Karnit Goldwasser, telling of the short time she managed to spend with her husband after their marriage. “He’s been away from me for five months out of the year and two months we’ve been married,” she said.
EU responsive but hesitant
On the second day of meetings in Brussels, the participants noted that there was an increasing tendency on the part of the European representatives to take responsibility for implementing all aspects of the UN resolution.
With that, they noted that the Europeans had not consented to the families’ request to stipulate aid money to Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority on the implementation of the conditions of the agreement – or at least on receiving a sign of life from the captive soldiers.
The first meeting Wednesday was with chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, who is responsible for managing foreign aid to Lebanon. Members of the families told him that the Europeans were the ones who pressed for the adoption of Resolution 1701, and even imposed the dramatic vote on the ceasefire on the final week of the war. “Please take responsibility, fulfill the decision and respect all its parts,” they said.
Miki Goldwasser said she was sorry the clause regarding the soldiers’ release was not included in the body of the agreement, but only in the supplement, but the EU representative stressed that the supplement was no less important than the agreement itself.
The delegation noted that most of the officials they met with said efforts towards the soldiers’ release were being managed in secret, out of concern for the welfare of the European troops in the multinational peace-keeping force stationed in Lebanon.
Noam Shalit: Ceasefire gives hope for my son's return
During the afternoon, simultaneous to the opening of the European Parliament session, a mass rally was held in Brussels, calling for the captives' release. The rally was organized with the help of the Jewish Agency and the Tziona organization, headed by Roger Pinto.
Some 5,000 Jews from all across Europe, who arrived in Brussels by trains and buses, attended the rally. "The decisive majority came from Paris, but also from Germany, Holland and Luxemburg," one of the organizers, Shmuel Algrabli, told Ynet.
"What made us particularly happy was the fact that parliament members also came, because we feared – especially after what happened in Beit Hanoun – that none of the Europeans would come."
Noam Shalit, the father of kidnapped soldier Gilad, was another speaker at the event. Shalit slammed the Palestinian leadership and at the same time expressed hope for the strengthening of the ceasefire.
"After Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, I dreamt that the Palestinians would cultivate fields and build houses on the lands they were given. Instead, they dug tunnels to transfer explosives and death."
"However," he added, "I am full of hope. The day when the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians was agreed upon is a day that gave hope for the return of my son, whose actions were defensive, not offensive, in nature."
Roger Cukierman, head of the Jewish community in France, called on the European leaders to take responsibility and bring to the soldiers' release. "If they don't contribute to this, the leaders of Europe will be responsible for the spread of the problem of kidnappings in the world," he stated.