Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet for the first time with the family of captive Israeli Avraham (Avera) Mengistu on Friday, ten months after the latter crossed the border into Gaza and vanished apparently due to the mental illness he suffers from.
Netanyahu's meeting follows a media uproar over a leaked recording of a conversation with Lior Lotan, who serves as Netanyahu’s coordinator on the subject of hostages and missing persons. Lotan was heard making threats to the Mengistu family in a recording from Wednesday – hours before it was cleared for publication that Mengistu was kidnapped by Hamas.
During the conversation, the envoy was heard telling the family that if any attempt was made to connect his 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.'”
Netanyahu demanded a public apology for Lotan, who acquiesced shortly after the scandal broke Thursday night.
The Prime Minister himself has not met with the Mengistu family during the entire 10 months, however, and his aides admitted to Arutz Sheva on Friday morning that a mistake was made in not making the effort to create a direct relationship with the family at an earlier stage.
Tensions throughout the government persist over the issue, however, over the fact that the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee and the Subcommittee for special decisions were not updated in real time.
Former Foreign Minister Avgidor Liberman also publicly stated Thursday that even he was never informed of the abduction throughout his term.