The family of 26-year-old Avraham (Avera) Mengistu, an Israeli who apparently due to mental illness entered Gaza last September where he was captured by Hamas, announced Friday it has accepted the apology of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's envoy.
Mengistu's disappearance was revealed to the public on Thursday; a Channel 10 recording revealed that the day before Netanyahu's envoy for hostage matters Col. (res.) Lior Lotan had threatened Mengistu's family.
Representatives of Mengistu's family accepted Lotan's apology for his conduct, adding that they will continue to cooperate with him to try and secure Avraham's release.
"After the publication of the recording yesterday, which was done without the knowledge of the family which was very surprised and takes no responsibility for it, a discussion was held between the sides in which Lotan apologized," read the statement of the family's representatives.
"The family accepted the apology and will brush it (the incident) off," it added.
The representatives also responded to Netanyahu's request to meet the family on Friday – a full ten months after Mengistu's capture – and said the meeting will be postponed to next week.
"Due to the recent events the mother does not feel well. She asked to postpone with the prime minister to next week."
Backing from Bennett
In his meeting with the family, Lotan was caught on tape saying that if any attempt was made to connect Mengistu's fate with recent tensions between the Ethiopian community and the government, it would “cause him to stay in Gaza for another year.”
"You have two options: you can point the finger at Hamas and say, 'you are holding Avera, you are responsible for his fate, give him back to us and we want to know he is alive,'" Lotan was heard telling the family members. "Or you can point the finger at Jerusalem and say, 'you’re not okay. You let him cross the border (into Gaza). You never responded to our letters.'"
While Mengistu was seen crossing over the border fence into Gaza by IDF soldiers who called on him to return, his family was reportedly left frantically searching for him for a long period before getting official word from the government regarding his location.
The Channel 10 report also revealed that during the meeting with Lotan the envoy refused to let the family take notes, and when Mengistu’s brother, Yalo, tried to intervene in the matter, Lotan told him, “don’t interrupt me, please. I am older than you. Let me finish and everything will be fine here.”
And yet Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) on Friday defended Lotan in a Facebook post, writing, "we all make mistakes. All the time. The new trend in the state of Israel in which they go from person to person and unleash the media wolves on them – has to stop."
Bennett went on to call Lotan a "hero of Israel," noting on his military career which included being critically wounded while trying to free an IDF soldier captured by terrorists.
"Lior made a mistake and apologized – and that happens. His intentions were good: to reduce the media exposure which immediately raises the price of Hamas's demands. The public lynch is no mistake. It is directed, and it needs to stop here and now," wrote Bennett.