Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint Yaron Blum as the new coordinator for issues concerning missing and captive Israelis.
Blum was appointed to replace Lior Lotan, who stepped down in August after three years in which he voluntarily held the position.
Arutz Sheva spoke to Rami Igra, former head of the Prisoners and Missing Persons Division of the Mossad, about what Blum could and should do in his new position to bring Israelis held by the Hamas terrorist organization home.
"In Israel, there is a tendency to preserve organizations which have outlived their usefulness, like the Jewish National Fund, which is still redeeming land," Igra said. He noted that when the position was established in the 1990s, it dealt with a number of missing Israeli servicemen, including Ron Arad, Yosef Fink, Rachamim Alsheikh, as well as the three IDF soldiers who were captured in a battle at Sultan Yacoub in Lebanon in 1982. "So there was room for a body which would coordinate between intelligence agencies which dealt with this issue."
"Today, the situation is that there are two civilians who crossed the border and two bodies of fallen soldiers held by Hamas. The way to solve this crisis is not necessarily by gathering intelligence as it was in the past, but rather through actions that are supposed to influence Hamas and the PA, and the body which can do this is the Defense Ministry, not the intelligence bodies which gather information.
"I do not know Yaron Blum and his skills, but I know that it is a very difficult task which lies before him. Most of it falls on the shoulders of the Coordinator of State Activities in the Territories and the Defense Ministry," Igra said.
Igra discussed the steps Israel must take to bring its citizens home in greater detail: "At this stage, leverage must be applied on the Hamas leadership. When we operate in Gaza, we can't make a worse humanitarian crisis. What we have to do is create a situation in which the Hamas leadership will pay a heavy price for holding the civilians and the bodies of the soldiers. The ones who can do this are the Coordinator of State Activities in the Territories and the Defense Ministry. And I understand that Defense Minister Liberman did not really want to appoint a new coordinator, and he is certainly right."
According to Igra, the new appointment "is intended to solve problems for the Prime Minister more than to solve the problem of the prisoners."
When asked if the coordinator for issues concerning missing and captive Israelis is capable of exerting the necessary pressure on Hamas, he said that this is a body that "is an Israeli body and its interests are the interests of the State of Israel, and these interests are the return of the bodies and the civilians. This is a general who knows how to do everything that needs to be done if he is instructed to do so. But this would have immediate consequences."
"When we stop letting the Gaza 'royal family' to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals, and when we take action against their bank accounts, then the situation will change because their lives will become unbearable. They will think twice."