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Press Release – 1 July 2008

State Zionist Council of Victoria statement on Israeli cabinet approval of prisoner swap with terrorist Hezbollah

The State Zionist Council of Victoria has expressed sad relief at the news that after 2 long years of effort to return kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev home; the Israeli cabinet voted 22 to 3 in favour of a deal with terrorist group Hezbollah. The Goldwasser and Regev families will finally have closure to 2 agonizing years at the unknown fate of Ehud and Eldad; however together with details of the deal, the Israeli government announced that Ehud and Eldad died shortly after being captured by Hezbollah terrorists on July 12, 2006. The tragedy thus becomes 2-fold for the families – after having suffered 2 agonizing years of mental anguish at the unknown fate of Ehud and Eldad, they have also been denied the right to bury and grieve for them.

The Israeli cabinet vote was finalised late Sunday after almost 6 hours of briefings and discussion, as reported by the Israeli English daily, The Jerusalem Post. According to the agreement, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser will be returned to Israel; a report on missing Israeli airforce navigator, Ron Arad will be delivered to Israel and the remains of soldiers from the Second Lebanon War of 2006 will also be received.

In turn, Israel will release convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar; 4 other Lebanese terrorists and the bodies of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists (including 8 Hezbollah members) will be returned to Lebanon. Israel will also provide the UN Secretary-General information on 4 missing Iranian diplomats and, after the exchange, release Palestinian prisoners (the identity and number to be at Israel’s discretion.)

Israel sought to reach a deal promptly and on the most feasible terms possible. Rejecting the current deal could have meant a lengthy delay in returning the soldiers (or their remains) and a more painful price. Still, the agreement is undeniably complex. There is widespread opposition to the release of Samir Kuntar, who murdered 4 Israeli citizens on April 22, 1979; smashing the skull of 4 year-old Einat Haran after murdering her father Danny in front of her eyes and 2 policemen who tried to stop him. Kuntar’s brutality is celebrated by Hezbollah and Arab extremists, and Kuntar himself has repeatedly vowed that he will repeat his acts of terror.

SZCV President Dr Danny Lamm has just returned from Israel where he attended meetings of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governers. “As was to be expected, this story dominated news headlines in Israel. However there are divergent opinions regarding Ehud and Eldad’s fate, the release of notorious terrorist Samir Kuntar and the seeming lack of adequate tie-in of Gilad’s release with the Gaza crossing openings” said Dr Lamm.

“The tragedy of Israel’s unreturned soldiers is shocking and inhumane. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and their families suffered for 2 years too long. The fact remains, regardless of whether Israel had made the deal with Hizbollah and will make a deal with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit, these terror organisations, their extremist offshoots and their support bases in Iran and Syria, will continue to attack and abduct Israeli civilians and soldiers at every opportunity because that is their raison d’être; they are obstacles to peace between Israel and its neighbours.”

Since the kidnappings of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in 2006, both results of infiltrations into Israel’s sovereign land, the State Zionist Council of Victoria sustained a state-wide Blue Ribbon campaign, to bring attention to the plight of the 3 young men and their families. This included a community gathering in Caulfield Park in July 2006; a rally attended by 1,000 people to mark a year since the kidnappings on the steps of the GPO in Melbourne’s CBD on June 25, 2007 and together with the Zionist Federation of Australia, a visit by Shlomo Goldwasser, father of Ehud to Melbourne last September, where he addressed thousands of community members and met with state parliamentarians.

To mark their 2 years in terrorist captivity, the SZCV set up a special section on its website dedicated to the return of Gilad, Ehud and Eldad, and continues to keep the community informed of all the latest news from Israel in relation to their possible return. A logo that people can include in their email signature (see left) has also been distributed to SZCV email subscribers.

Anat Kiviti-Manor, close friend of Ehud Goldwasser and his wife Karnit, who spoke at last year’s rally to mark the 1 year since the kidnappings will also be a guest speaker at the next State Zionist Council of Victoria Executive meeting on Tuesday July 8.

The State Zionist Council now awaits news of the release of 21 year old Gilad Shalit, held captive by Hamas. In an equally complex agreement with Hamas, the Israeli cabinet has reportedly so far approved the release of up to 80 Palestinian prisoners, most of who have “blood on their hands” and have masterminded terror attacks on Israeli civilians, like the one that killed 30 Israelis at the Park Hotel in the seaside town of Netanya on Passover eve, March 27, 2002.

The Israeli cabinet says it endorsed the prisoner exchange in order to send a message to Israeli Defence Force soldiers and their families, that Israel will always do everything in its power to bring its sons and daughters home. Israel regards its responsibility to its servicemen and women as a supreme value, one that stems from the moral foundations of the State of Israel and from the Jewish faith.

The prisoner swap with Hezbollah is expected to take place within the next 2 weeks. Hezbollah marks July 12, 2 years to the day that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped as a day for celebration, while Israel is committed to completing the swap as soon as possible for the sake of the Goldwasser and Regev families.

For more information contact:
SZCV Executive Director, Ginette Searle 9272 5544
SZCV Director of Public Affairs, Elly Shalev 9272 5519
The State Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel.

For more information, please visit the State Zionist Council of Victoria website