February 5, 2007

Captive Israeli’s Wife Pleads for Husband

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On July 12, Hezbollah militants ambushed an Israeli military patrol, kidnapping soldiers Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Edad Regev, killing three other soldiers and ultimately sparking a month-long war in Lebanon and Israel. In between meetings with world leaders, Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit, journeyed to Ithaca yesterday to address the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee. Karnit sat down with The Sun after her speech.

The Sun: What brings you to the United States?

Karnit Goldwasser: I came because Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) [introduced] a resolution in the Congress [calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the captive soldiers] and the day after the resolution, I spoke with him and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). The United States is a very important country because it can [influence] countries from Europe, and Europe tends to be a very big supporter of Lebanon. Before coming here, I was in London last week and next week I’m flying to Italy. I’ve been to London several times and also to Strasburg, Brussels and Moscow. I’ve spoken with many foreign ministers all over the world.

Sun: How receptive have foreign leaders generally been in your discussions?

Goldwasser: Everyone has given us a lot of support. But after they say these things, we need to make sure they continue to do what they say they’ll do. And that’s why I came here to ask for help. People like us, people that have had our Congressmen promise to do whatever they can, need to demand [that] they do whatever they can to bring back Gilad, Edad and Udi.

Sun: It’s been almost seven months since Udi’s capture. Do you think that his story is getting as much attention, in Israel and abroad, as it deserves?

Goldwasser: In Israel, sometimes it seems like we are dealing with other stuff, but this is always at the top. I think it should be the first priority, but this is why we need to remind people in Israel that they are not home yet. I am trying to make sure that people around the world won’t forget them. Especially countries that [signed U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1701 [ending hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah], especially countries that are sending troops to Lebanon; if they sacrifice their soldiers, they need to demand something in return for everything they’re doing.

Sun: One of the primary goals for Israel’s military action in Lebanon was to bring Udi and Edad home. How did you react as the war progressed, with no word from the captive soldiers?

Goldwasser: It was very hard for me during the war to see what happened in Israel and what happened in Lebanon, to see the destruction and to see the casualties and their families in Israel and in Lebanon. When the war ended, I can say it was kind of a relief for me that the fighting ended, but it was a sad day because [while most of] Israel’s soldiers came back, I can’t say that all the soldiers came back; Edad and Udi are still missing.

Sun: What do you plan on saying to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tomorrow?

Goldwasser: I hope that he won’t cancel on me. Kofi Annan promised me that he would do everything he can to bring them back. I’m going to ask [Ban] to continue doing what the former Secretary-General was doing to help and to use his abilities and his contacts in Lebanon to demand that [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah and [Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora share any information they have about the soldiers.

Sun: As someone deeply invested in the conflict with Hezbollah, what connections do you see with the West’s struggles with Iran, Iraq and Hamas? Where do you see these conflicts going in the future?

Goldwasser: What I understand — from the interview with Nasrallah in the newspaper this morning — is that the ones who bring him support are Iran and Syria. So Nasrallah, Iran and Syria are one big group. Hamas in Gaza is controlled by Khaled Mashaal and Khaled Mashaal is staying in Syria. The one who provides his accommodation and whatever he needs is [Syrian President Bashaar al-] Assad. So you can see the links between the Arab leaders, but also you can see President Mubarrak of Egypt trying to negotiate between Israel and Hamas, so you can see other kinds of connections too. I hope that one day, because we are a very small country, living in a very small region, [and] because we have a strain on our water and natural resources, through peace, we can make it a much better place, socially and also environmentally.

Sun: How often are you in touch with the families of Gilad Shalit and Edad Regev?

Goldwasser: We are constantly in contact: we are always together, always talking. We, of course, have a lot of meetings in Israel, so we sometimes see each other once a day. Whatever we do, it’s because our three families decided to do it together. Sometimes I’m speaking to people who can have much more [influence] in the case of Gilad Shalit than in Edad and Udi’s.

Sun: General Gabi Ashkenazi was recently appointed the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, replacing Dan Halutz. Have you spoken with Ashkenazi about a new way forward for Udi’s case?

Goldwasser: No, he was just appointed. I’m going to London on Tuesday and then having a meeting with Dan Halutz. Just this morning the government accepted [Ashkenazi’s] appointment.

Sun: Do you think a diplomatic solution can bring them home or do you think it would require further military action?

Goldwasser: What history says is that after wars, only by negotiations do prisoners come back home. My husband is not a prisoner, he is a captive. He didn’t murder anyone, and he didn’t do anything wrong. He was just patrolling a road on which anyone can go when he was kidnapped.

Sun: Many Cornell students and community members came to your speech today. What can they do to help?

Goldwasser: We need to raise this [issue] as much as we can. This is my fifth time in the States, so sometimes I meet communities for the second and third times. And sometimes I see them writing postcards [to leaders] or wearing bracelets. Everything they’re doing can raise awareness. Even kindergartners can make postcards or paintings and send them to the Secretary-General. Everything that can be done is great, and is very important to us. They can visit www.habanim.org for more information on how to help. It’s in Hebrew and English.

Sun: What was the Goldwasser family’s last trip to Ithaca like?

Goldwasser: I remember Udi was so impressed by the nature and the beauty. He came here to see Ofer’s kids in April 2005.