Fourteen years ago Israel was rocked by a scandal involving an Israeli journalist separated from her Belgian husband. The Belgian courts ruled that the father get custody of the child, but the mother abducted the 3-year old child and returned to Israel.
The abduction spurred a lengthy, wrenching legal struggle between the mother and the father’s lawyers, at the end of which the mother was convicted of abduction and was ordered to return the child to his father. The District court acquitted the mother of abduction, but the State appealed to the Supreme Court and won. In 2013 the mother was sentenced to five years of prison.
The child disappeared and the mother claimed she didn’t know where. This case became a point of conflict between Israel and Belgium, and several times Belgian’s foreign minister brought up the child’s abduction in meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin.
Israeli police and the Interpol were also involved in the investigation, which at one point indicated — incorrectly — that the child had been smuggled out to Alaska or Hawaii. As it turned out, the child had never left Israel and had been living among the haredi community in Jerusalem.
The saga came to its final end when Israeli authorities agreed to shorten the mother’s imprisonment by two years in exchange for her son showing up at a police station.
The mother was freed a few days ago after the 17-year old son came to the police station and made a statement that he didn’t want to return to Belgium. According to the Hague Convention, one cannot force an abducted child who is over 16 to return to one of his parents.
The father’s lawyer, Ed Friedman, responded, “The fact that the child showed up in the police station proves that the mother’s words that she didn’t know where the child was wasn’t true. The child is 17 and can’t be forced to return. I understand from the authorities that the child agrees to speak with his father, who will come soon and meet him.”
Friedman blamed the Israeli authorities of inaction. “The father hired a private detection and he managed to receive information that the police could have easily obtained. The treatment of this case was scandalous.”
The mother’s former legal defense, Atty. Zion Amir, said, “This is a complex human tragedy. The mother went through many difficult years of long, protracted legal struggle and spent time in prison. I am happy that this saga came to its end. The mother is free and I wish that she and her son reunite and rehabilitate their lives.”