Lior Lotan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's representative, warned the family of missing Israeli Abera Mengistu against public criticism of Netanyhu, as such actions would "keep him in Gaza for another year," a Channel 10 report revealed on Thursday.
Channel 10 aired a recording of the dramatic conversation between Lotan and the family. "Whoever connects Abera with the story between the Ethiopian community and the State of Israel will leave him in Gaza for another year," said Lotan referrencing recent protests led by Ethiopian-Israelis against racism.
Lotan also warned the family against documenting the meeting saying, "This is unacceptable. Meetings with me don't get documented." Mengistu's brother can be heard in the recording trying to interject, but Lotan stopped him, saying, "Don't get into these things with me please, I'm an older man than you. Decide what you want - to work together or make a scene and manipulate us."
Several hours after the lifting of the gag order on Thursday, it is becoming more and more apparent that the ministers in the Security Cabinet and the members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee were not officially briefed about the disappearance of two Israelis in the Gaza Strip.
Abera Mengistu, 29 years old from Ashkelon, has gone missing in the early hours of September 8, 2014, and was seen crossing the border into Gaza out of his own volition. A second citizen, a Bedouin resident of the south, has also crossed the border into the Strip, also of his own accord, several months later.
"Even as a minister and a member of cabinet, we were not briefed on the story," said Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who served as a foreign minister in the first two months after the two Israelis crossed the border into Gaza.
"Even I ask myself how come we weren't updated," another minister said.The chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, said on the radio on Thursday, "You'd be surprised, I had no idea. I really was surprised. I read about it on Ynet this morning. I called the director of the committee and asked him if the committee heard a report about this and he told me that at the time during a report from the Shin Bet, there was something that was presented as minor, and he hasn't heard about it since."
Another minister, who is well-versed in highly-sensitive issues, said some of the members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee were updated on the incident, but even that happened after they came by the story independently and sought explanations.
Former minister Yaakov Peri told Ynet he first learned of the story from his former Yesh Atid faction member Pnina Tamano-Shata.
"About a month after he disappeared, my fellow faction member Pnina Tamano-Shata turned to me, telling me he disappeared and that the family knew he went to Gaza. I asked around and it turned out to be true. For reasons I won't elaborate on, the State of Israel decided not to let it be published," Peri said.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said in response: "Since this is an issue that did not require a cabinet decision, the cabinet ministers were not updated."