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Ron Arad

I made aliyah to Israel in August 1986; Ron Arad was captured by terrorists in October 1986. It is heart-wrenching to compare the life I have experienced in the years since I moved to Israel to that which Arad has experienced in captivity, assuming he is still alive.

Swapping Prisoners

Many Israeli citizens and government officials oppose the prisoner exchange with Hizbullah - which was approved by a 12-11 vote in the Israeli cabinet in November 2003 - because it does not include gaining information about Ron Arad.

With their vote, the Israeli cabinet agreed to release Mustafa Dirani, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid, and approximately 400 other Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli civilian and suspected criminal Elchanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah in October 2000 and who are assumed to be dead.

Dirani and Obeid were originally kidnapped by Israel to be used as bargaining chips to obtain Arad's release. Dirani was the former Amal security chief who allegedly captured IAF navigator Ron Arad when his plane crashed in Lebanon. Dirani reportedly broke away from Amal in 1987, taking Arad with him. It is believed that Dirani then "sold" Arad to either Hizbullah or Iranian elements.

Yuval Arad, Ron Arad's daughter, said she felt Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had abandoned her father. In a letter to the Prime Minister, she wrote: "I can't understand how you can sleep at night ... you're about to release the man who tortured him (her father Ron Arad)."

The Loss of Ron Arad's

On 16 October 1986, while on a mission over southern Lebanon, Israeli navigator Lieutenant Colonol Ron Arad and his pilot were forced to parachute out of their Phantom jet due to a technical problem. While the pilot was rescued in a daring helicopter raid, Arad fell captive to terrorists belonging to the Amal organization.

Since his capture, Arad has been denied basic rights of POW's as set down in the Geneva convention. The international Red Cross has not been permitted to send or receive letters.

Information on Ron Arad's Whereabouts and Well-Being

In his initial years of captivity there were signs that Arad was alive. Since 1988, no definite word has been received regarding Arad's health or the conditions of his captivity. Nevertheless, the Israeli government and public insist that Ron Arad will be believed to be alive unless it is proved to the contrary.

The Vinograd Commission, a committee established by the IDF, concluded that the government should assume that Arad is still alive. The committee reportedly examined thousands of documents collected since Arad's capture and concluded that there was no evidence to change the assumption that he is still alive.

Recently, in October 2003, three former Iranian diplomats and intelligence officials, currently residing in Europe, said that missing IAF navigator Ron Arad is alive and being held in a prison near Tehran, according to Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. On the one hand, the testimonies can not be verified and should be regarded with caution. On the other hand, there isn't a clear motivation for the ex-Iranians to fabricate this story.

One of the ex-Iranians claims that he worked and Arad was being held in a secret, heavily-guard prison near Tehran in the late 1990's. The source said he had access to Arad's files, saw Arad several times, and even exchanged words with him. According to this ex-Iranian, Arad tried to escape from his captivity while in Lebanon and was shot and wounded by his guards. In mid 1994, Arad was transferred via Syria to Iran. Before being transferred he underwent an operation to paralyze his legs in order to prevent him from escaping. Arad is, thus, confined to a wheelchair. The source also said that Arad was hospitalized twice for heart problems.

Despite the findings of the Vinograd Commission and the above, as well as other second, third and fourth hand, testimony concerning Arad's current well-being, there are many who doubt Arad is alive. They say that if Arad was alive, his captors would have used him already to get something from Israel. Israeli columnist Ron Edelist is one of those who believes Arad is dead. Edelist criticizes Israel's intelligence activities and inability to resolve the case of Ron Arad: "Never has Israel invested so much manpower and efforts over so long a time to locate one person."

The Release of Ron Arad

Arad's family was extremely disheartened by the Israeli governments decision to give up Dirani and Obeid in a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah without gaining information about Arad. They say they no longer believe in Israel's official proclamations to do everything possible to secure Arad's release.

Arad's brother, Dudu, claims that Israeli officials are no longer trying to find answers to the family's main question - where is Ron Arad today? "We can no longer say that they are doing everything for us," he told Maariv. "We are alone in this battle. We no longer have expectations from the authorities."

It must be noted that before finalizing and approving the prisoner swap with Hizbullah, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz agreed to a new aggressive policy aimed at securing information about Arad. In fact, it is said that the prisoner exchange deal includes a clause regarding new efforts to secure information about Ron Arad. These efforts may include the kidnapping of additional "bargaining chips" to be used in future negotiations.

Related Resources:

10million.org - Ron Arad MIA Reward
The Story of Ron Arad

Free Ron Arad
Israel Insider: After fifteen years of absence, Ron Arad's memory lives on in Israel

The Internation Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers
Debka File: Ron Arad
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israeli MIAs
Intellnet: Iran Responsible for Fate of Missing Israeli Navigator: Shalom


~ Lisa Katz


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