The Israeli army, in a rare move, today criticized the conduct of two of three captured soldiers returned to Israel in a swap for 1,150 Arab prisoners. A right-wing politician said the men should be tried for sleeping on duty.
"They were dreaming, they were not fighting," lawmaker Pinchas Goldstein fumed, referring to reports that two of three Israeli soldiers freed from Syria on Monday in exchange for 1,150 Arab prisoners held by Israel had been asleep when captured during the 1982 war in Lebanon.
The army, which rarely publicly criticizes its troops, said the behavior of freed prisoners-of-war Yosef Groff and Nissim Shalem--both privates--was "below standard" and added that "the appropriate conclusions have been reached."
Maj. Gen. Amos Yaron, head of the army's manpower division, excepted returning captive Sgt. Hezi Shai from the criticism. Shai, who also came home Monday, was captured in fighting with Syrian forces in Lebanon in June, 1982.
Groff shrugged off charges that he failed to fight back when he and Shalem were seized along with six other Israeli troops, who were returned to Israel in another lopsided prisoner swap in November, 1983.
"What do they want, that I should return to being a POW?" Groff said.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres has strongly defended the mass swap, which freed some terrorists convicted of killing civilians and has generated criticism from Israelis who have urged that Jews arrested for terrorist acts against Arabs also be released. (Story, Page 16.)
Yuval Neeman, a Knesset member from the ultraconservative Techiya Party, said Israel should have let its three captured POWs sit another year in captivity in Syria in hopes that a better release could be negotiated.
Eli Ovadia, another member of the rightist Likud coalition, said the released soldiers should be put on trial for being captured without fighting back.