WASHINGTON (Jul. 21)
Tami Arad wants Americans to know that there are not only Americans being held hostage in Lebanon, but also seven Israelis.
One of them is her husband, Capt. Ron Arad, a navigator in the Israeli air force who has been a prisoner in Lebanon since October 1986.
Tami Arad was in Washington last week to speak to members of Congress and representatives of Jewish organizations about her husband, who she believes is alive, even though he has not been seen since the end of 1987.
He is being held by the Iranian government, not by the Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah or some other Lebanese or Palestinian group, she maintained.
That is why Arad believes the time is propitious for obtaining her husband’s release
Groups holding the American hostages, including journalist Terry Anderson, have demanded the release of Palestinians and Lebanese being held as prisoners of war in Israel, in exchange for the Americans.
But Israel will never release the, Arab prisoners without a guarantee of getting back its own prisoners, Arad said.
Three of the six other Israelis believed held captive in Lebanon have been missing since a 1982 battle with the Syrian army, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Their names are Yehuda Katz, Zachary Shlomo Baumel and Zvi Feldman.
The other three, Joseph Fink, Rachamim Alsheikh and Samir Assad, are believed to have been captured in 1985 by Amal, the mainstream Shiite militia.
Arad believes the problem can be solved by what she calls a “circular” deal, in which the Israeli and American hostages, and the prisoners held in Israel, are released in a three-way swap.
“We can help each other,” she said.
Arad said that members of Congress voiced concern that such a deal could conflict with the U.S. policy against negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers. But they were amenable to her proposal to let Israel do the “dirty work,” she said.
A ‘HUMANITARIAN PROBLEM’
The 30-year-old Arad, accompanied by her 6-year-old daughter, Yuval, urged everyone not to look at her husband’s plight in terms of Middle East politics, or even the peace process.
“It is a humanitarian problem,” she said. “We are talking about people.”
Arad said her husband was known to be in good condition after he was first captured in Lebanon. He and the pilot of an Israeli air force Phantom bailed out over the southern coastal city of Sidon.
The pilot was rescued, but Arad was captured by Amal, the Shiite organization headed by Nabih Berri, who had him transferred to Beirut.
Tami Arad said that while her husband was held in Beirut, she received a picture of him and a letter.
But at the beginning of 1988, Mustafa Dirani, who was in charge of Amal’s security, split with the organization and took the Israeli navigator with him.
Since then, Arad has not heard from her husband, and nobody has admitted to holding him.
But she said the Israeli government believes her husband is still alive and is being held by the Iranians, either in Lebanon or perhaps in Iran.
It is thought that Dirani, a Shi’ite fundamentalist with tics to Iran, turned Arad over to the Iranians after holding him for a year. Iran has never acknowledged holding him and has refused queries from the International Red Cross.
Arad urged sympathetic listeners to write to Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, demanding information about her husband.