Don’t Forget Ron Arad

Where are all the breast-beating politicians who were competing over the price Israel must be prepared to pay to bring home abducted Israeli soldiers, alive or dead?


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on July 8, 2008.)

When with the government’s approval of the latest prisoner exchange deal, the former Air Force Commander, Avihu Bin-Nun, declared the time had come to close the file of Ron Arad and have him declared a fallen soldier whose burial site is unknown, an almost audible sigh of relief could be heard from hundreds of Lebanese and Iranians. All those who had taken part in abducting him, selling and reselling him, hiding him and mistreating him must feel they are now off the hook. No more need to worry that at any time of the day or night, they might be picked up and forced to reveal the information about Ron Arad they have had locked in their brains for years.

Where are all the breast-beating politicians who were competing over the price Israel must be prepared to pay to bring home abducted Israeli soldiers, alive or dead? We must pay any price they request, or else we cannot look the Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the eyes. Who cares how terrorists holding Israeli prisoners, or those who this very minute are planning new abductions, interpret these demagogic statements. “No price is too high!” the politicians and some of our journalists repeat. And a little self-praise cannot hurt: “Yes, we are different, yes we care more! This weakness is our strength!” they tell us. What do they have to say about Ron Arad, who has been missing for 20 years? Prepared to pay any price?

Has Israel been prepared to pay any price to bring home this Air Force navigator? If we were, why were Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Obeid returned to Lebanon, when we knew they were highly valued bargaining chips in this satanic game? And Samir Kuntar, the man Nasrallah wanted released above all others, why did we agree to release him now? Have we really closed the file on Ron Arad?

And is the cost of an abducted soldier really measured only by the number of terrorists Israel releases in exchange? Is that the only way to redeem our abducted soldiers home?

For years now it has been clear that those who abducted Ron Arad, who held him prisoner, who sold and resold him, who hid him in some dark dungeon, are not prepared to surface, to admit to their monstrous crime, not even in order to strike a devil’s bargain for his release. They are not prepared to provide the slightest bit of information about what happened to him and his present whereabouts, for fear of being identified or implicating their accomplices.

Who are the fools in our government who wanted to believe that Hassan Nasrallah was going to unlock this secret? That he, out of the goodness of his heart, was going to tell us what happened to Ron Arad, and where he can be found? At this moment they are waiting for the report he “promised” to submit detailing Ron Arad’s fate. Who is prepared to take this “report” seriously?

No intermediary from Germany or the United Nations is going to bring us the information we need about Ron Arad. Years have been wasted in such useless efforts. The comings and goings between Europe and Beirut, no doubt well-intentioned, were no more than a waste of time and money. In the meantime, the Iranian and Lebanese bargaining chips, held by Germany and Israel respectively, have been thrown away, despite the role they could have played in redeeming Ron Arad.

Obtaining the information about what happened to Ron Arad is a job for Israelis, and only for Israelis. Some of the terrorists who were involved in the many stages of Ron Arad’s abduction and imprisonment need to be located and asked politely to cough up what they know. That is the only way we are going to find out. We must be prepared to pay the price for this mission.

But closing the file on him today? No way!

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