There’s no reason to be highly confident in the accuracy of a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper, but almost everyone in Israel hopes it’s true that definitive information about Ron Arad could come soon.
Arad was the Israel Air Force aviator whose plane crashed over Lebanon in October 1986. After ejecting by parachute, his IAF colleague was rescued; but Arad vanished.
Israeli intelligence received “proof of life” messages in 1987 — including photographs of Arad as a captive. It was believed that Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims — in the Amal organization, not Hezbollah — were holding him. But, as often occurs among terrorist groups, one gang may have sold him to another, and even the mighty Israeli intelligence was unable to keep up with Arad’s movements.
Negotiations with Lebanese groups — through European intermediaries, usually — failed.
The newspaper in Kuwait, As-Siyassa, claims that Iran has now stepped forward with a meaningful offer to solve the mystery. Iran would, as part of a deal, receive definite information about four Iranians — three diplomats and a journalist — who vanished in Lebanon in 1982.
The report says if any or all of the five men (including Arad) are dead, then information will be exchanged on the location of their graves.
The recovery of missing or captured soldiers and agents is a traditional, high priority for Israel’s military and intelligence community. If Israelis die behind enemy lines, then the Jewish state makes major efforts — even, in the past, releasing Arab prisoners — to gain the release of the corpses.
Unfortunately for Arad’s wife — and for many other Israelis who have campaigned to keep “Remember Ron Arad!” at the forefront of their country’s thinking — there is not likely to be any breakthrough at this time.
It’s reliably reported that the four Iranians were arrested by the Christian Phalangists — then powerful in, at least, their sector of Lebanon — and were tortured to death. Their bodies were dumped in an unmarked pit, and sometime later a building was constructed on the site.
When the last swap between Israel and the Lebanese Shi’ites of Hezbollah — closely allied with Iran — was mediated around five years ago, Hezbollah and Iran were given that information.
Hezbollah was supposed to furnish details of Arad’s fate, as part of that deal, but they gave the Israelis nothing. That is what senior Israeli security officials have revealed to us, over the years, and they add that the burden of proof — in order to receive anything in return — is up to Iran and its Hezbollah clients.