Daily Israel Report

Canadian Jew Also Involved in Hadad's Release

Canadian Jew of Libyan origin took part in negotiations to release jailed Israeli.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/13/2010, 5:13 AM / Last Update: 8/13/2010, 5:02 AM

Yoni Kempinski

In the wake of the release of Rafel Hadad, an Israeli who had been placed under arrest in Libya for five months, more details on the circumstances of his arrest and subsequent release are slowly being made available.

Behind the scenes negotiations took place in order to secure the release of Hadad, who had entered Libya using his Tunisian passport. American Jewish organizations, Italian intelligence, as well as Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Austrian-Jewish businessman Martin Schlaff (who has ties to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi), all took part in these negotiations.

Shalom Life spoke with a member the Canadian Libyan Jewish community. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the individual who had also taken part in the negotiations for Hadad’s release revealed some further details on the negotiations.

The individual explained that Hadad was not arrested right away, but was rather stopped by security and released after a very short time. He remained in Libya and was subsequently stopped a second time and again released. It was only after the third time that Hadad was stopped that he was arrested, interrogated and placed in jail under allegation of spying, said the source.

The source told Shalom Life that after Israel had put a gag order on the story, behind-the-scenes negotiations for Hadad’s release began. Through a contact in Italy who is friends with Libyan leader Gaddafi’s son, he succeeded in making the Libyans aware of Israel’s desire to solve the problem without any publicity. 

At the same time, said the individual, Schlaff was also holding discussions with the Libyans on this issue. He added that during the negotiations/discussions with Libyans, it appeared that they were interested in solving the problem and were very positive in trying to sort it out. One of the channels of discussion was through the Canadian/Italian and the son of Gaddafi.   

The discussions had started before the flotilla aid ship was due to leave from Libya, explained the source. Once that story broke, those involved in negotiations were concerned that should problems with the Libyan ship arise, it would affect the negotiations of the release. In the last discussion, however, the Libyans assured all involved that they would finalize the release before the Ramadan holidays. They also assured the Italian contact that Hadad was in good health after concerns were expressed regarding his health.

The source told Shalom Life that the Libyans acted in a very responsible manner, and fulfilled their promises to the parties involved.

It has been speculated that Schlaff’s active involvement in the negotiations to release Hadad was due to the fact that he is not allowed in Israel due to previous corruption charges, and participating in the negotiations was his way of trying to correct his past mistake and lift the ban. Schlaff has indeed been the subject of a number of police investigations in Israel, due to his relationships with both Lieberman and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Police suspect that Schlaff operated a number of shell companies to illegally fund Lieberman’s 2006 election campaign, and that he paid off a debt accrued by Sharon during his campaign for the Likud primary in 1999.

This past April, Schlaff chose not to attend his father’s funeral in Jerusalem, possibly because he was unable to receive assurances from police that he would not be arrested if he came to Israel.

The day after Hadad’s release, Libya announced it will fund a $50 million project for Gaza. The project involves the construction of 1,250 homes and represents a rare agreement between Israel and Libya. It was originally reported that this was the price Israel agreed to pay for the release of Tunisian-born Hadad. However, Gaddafi’s regime insisted there was no connection between Hadad's release and the announcement of the project.

(Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life)