TEL AVIV (Dec. 18)
Israel has lifted its ironclad ban on contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, in order to ascertain the whereabouts of missing soldiers.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin disclosed Monday that his ministry had granted permission for representatives of families of soldiers believed held captive in Lebanon to talk to the PLO.
The purpose is to find out where they are and how they are, Rabin said. One family representative has even been allowed to go to Tunis, where the PLO is headquartered, to try to meet with PLO leaders.
“In a matter such as this, there can be no restrictions,” Rabin said.
He was referring to the law that provides severe penalties for Israelis who meet with representatives of the PLO or any other group on Israel’s list of terrorist organizations.
Addressing students at Tel Aviv University, Rabin said the Israel Defense Force is doing everything in its power to establish the fate of prisoners and their whereabouts.
Defense officials disclosed Sunday that Capt. Ron Arad, an air force navigator who was shot down over Lebanon in October 1986, is being held by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard inside Lebanon.
A statement by his wife, Tamar Arad, that he was in Iranian custody, though not necessarily in Iran, was confirmed by Uri Slonim, a lawyer and special adviser to Rabin on missing soldiers.
In addition to Arad, six IDF soldiers remain listed as missing. They are Yehuda Katz, Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, Yosef Fink, Rahamim Alsheikh and Samir Assad.