Nadia Cohen, Eli's widow
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Eli Cohen
Photo: GPO

Olmert phones Nadia Cohen: We will not forget Eli

Shortly before clandestine Israel-Syria talks revealed, prime minister contacts widow of Israeli spy executed in Syria to reassure her efforts to bring Cohen's remains to Israel continue

A newfound hope arises regarding the remains of the Israeli spy who was hanged in a Syrian public square 43 years ago, Eli Cohen. Shortly before news of clandestine negotiations between Israel and Syria broke on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert contacted Cohen’s widow Nadia to reassure her the matter of her husband's remains would be kept on the agenda.


Cohen told Ynet that the prime minister hinted at the renewed contact with the Syrians. “He did not go into details but he told me to be ‘calm and know that we are dealing with this issue, we will not forget Eli.’


“I asked him to meet with me so that he could explain what he means when he says he is taking care of this. He promised to arrange a meeting,” she added.


Olmert tried calling Nadia on Sunday during extended discussion in his Jerusalem office about the departure of the chief of staff and the national security advisor to Istanbul. “The prime minister tried contacting me on Sunday, May 18 on the date on which Eli was killed,” says Cohen, “Unfortunately we were unable to speak until yesterday.”


Nadia Cohen: Unfortunately I am no optimistic


Officials from the prime minister’s office expressed hope that the indirect negotiations with the Syrians will reopen the Cohen issue, for humanitarian purposes. They noted that just this week a memorial for Cohen took place at the Mossad. At this point, Olmert’s office avoided saying whether or not the Syrians committed to this issue.


This is perhaps the reason why Cohen is not optimistic regarding the return of her husband’s bones. “Each time we are told by different officials that they are “working on it,” but the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing and Eli is still there. If something is occurring underneath the table, we want to know about it,” she said.


Cohen said, “Unfortunately I am not optimistic. We have been excited numerous times about meetings with the Syrians, we were full of hope and expectations, and we came out disappointed.” Cohen asks that the discussion regarding her husband be conducted directly and not through a third party. “I want to hear from the prime minister himself that he is raising the issue of retrieving Eli’s bones to Israel.”


She continued by saying that, “we have had contact with certain bodies in Turkey numerous times and nothing has succeeded or led anywhere. Negotiations conducted via a third party are not negotiations. We need to sit together and talk. Only then will we see results regarding my issue and the issue of peace,” she said.


Forty-three years have passed since Eli Cohen’s murder and Nadia is going through tough times. “It is not easy for me, I am submerged in past, present and future thoughts. My whole life has been a war. I try to remember Eli’s voice and suddenly I understand that I can’t recall how it sounded, I am starting to forget the picture in my mind.”


In Olmert’s first visit to Ankara as prime minister and as part of initial exploratory actions regarding the Syrian channel, he raised the issue of bringing Cohen’s bones back to Israel in a meeting with senior Turkish governmental officials.


In December of 2006, Cohen turned to Olmert in order to utilize the opportunity which arose for discussion with the Syrians.


On Wednesday morning, a special joint announcement was made by Israel, Syria and Turkey in which they confirmed that official discussions are being held between Jerusalem and Damascus and mediated by Turkey. Ynet revealed that Olmert’s delegation consisting of Yoram Turbowitz and Shalom Turgeman has convened with Syrian officials.


“Israel and Syria began indirect peace talks under Turkish tutelage. Both sides revealed their intentions of innocent and open discussion and to conduct serious and continuous dialogue in order to reach an all-inclusive peace according to the framework determined at the Madrid Conference,” said the PMO.


According to the announcement, the Syrian Prime Minister Walid al-Mouallem hurried to declare that Israel agreed upon a complete pullout from the Golan Heights as part of what is considered, “indirect talks under Turkish mediation.”


Jerusalem responded to al-Mouallem’s comment and said, “The negotiations are based on the principles of the Madrid Conference. We have no recollection of discussion at the conference on a complete pullout from the Golan Heights.”


Roi Mandel contribute to this report


פרסום ראשון: 05.21.08, 18:22
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