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Israel: Why did Israel Approve the Hezbollah Deal?

A day after the controversial deal with Hezbollah, many Israelis are still puzzled and disappointed. Puzzled over why their government accepted the terms of this deal, knowing that the kidnapped soldiers were not alive. How did the government and security entities approve handing back live prisoners with blood on their hands for dead bodies? Many are furious over the release of Samir Kuntar, charged with intentionally killing Israeli civilians, including a four-year-old girl, and his heroic public status within Lebanon and Palestine. However, many support the moral importance of bringing back all soldiers, in any state, even at such a high price. In addition, some wonder if this concession is part of a larger peace deal Israel is crafting with Lebanon. More opinions and perspectives below:

In his post Tell us the Truth, Daniel Bloch blames the Israeli government for hiding the truth from the public:

The argument over the price that was paid for the Hezbollah deal is legitimate. The problem is that we were not told the truth in time, in order to balance between our minds and our emotions. It is clear now that the government's security department knew several hours after Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser's kidnap that they are not alive – this after a chase in which several of our soldiers died. Did the government know this when it decided to start the war? From the end of the war until today, a campaign which comprised various elements of hiding truth from the families and the general public. Is there someone in the security council who believes that Ron Arad is alive? I want to see what these beliefs are based upon.

In the situation that was formed, there was no choice but to complete the deal. But had we known the full truth, was it necessary for us to reach the current state? Perhaps a brave and trustworthy leadership should have initially stated: “there is no deal unless we have clear information about the soldier's fate!”

Below is a part of an interview with Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, posted on You Tube. In it, he talks about the reasoning behind Israel's decision to swap live prisoners for dead soldiers:

The government held two special cabinet meetings just on this topic.
We as Israelis attach an extremely high premium to every single one of our service men and women. To them and to their families. And every Israeli serviceman has to know that if he or she are taken hostage and held hostage behind enemy lines, we as a society will do utmost to bring about their release. That's not weakness, that's part of our national strength. We place an extremely high priority on every single one of our people.

Yonatan Raz writes about the lack of certainty with the government's statements prior to the Hezbollah deal: It was not clear if they were alive or dead.

In my opinion, the most worrysome question regarding the prisoner swap relates to how uncertain the Israeli security council and Prime Minister were in regards to the fate of the abducted soldiers. I am afraid that they all knew the soldiers were dead. All knew and said that 99% chance the soldiers were dead. All knew, but no leader – from the Prime Minister, Defense Minister to the IDF and Intelligence heads – had neither courage nor responsibility to say to the publid: “It is unfortunate, but they are dead. The answer is clear from the information in our hands.” This should be the starting point of the negotiations, and how Israel should estimate a valid compensation for the deal.

The decision not to take responsibility and not to clearly state Udi and Eldad's fate, is yet another show of the bad nature of this current government, who has one goal: to survive… Healing from the mediocrity and lack of authority will be most challenging for the next government.

A prominent assumption notes that Israel is making an effort clear all open issues with Lebanon in order to sign a legitimate peace agreement. The Shebaa Farms is a small area of land with disputed ownership located on the border between Lebanon and the Israeli controlled, disputed Golan Heights. Even after the recent (2000) Israeli military withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hezbullah cites what it sees as continued Israeli occupation of the disputed Shebaa Farms as partial justification for attacks upon Israeli concerns. Pinhas Inbari describes the prisoner swap an an Israeli attempt to close all “open files” with Hezbollah, who on their side, have rejected Israeli attempts for normalization, and have sent a clear message that the Shebaa farms is only one clause in a general list over the Galil:

Israel returned all Lebanese prisoners it had, and emptied out its cemetery holding enemy fighters. This move was a “case closer”, through which Israel signals to Hezbollah its intent on clearing the table from all points of disagreement and friction. Israel aims to bring normalization or a sort of ‘hudna’ in the northern border. In addition, the diplomatic attempts behind the scenes to hand over the Shebaa farms to the UN should be noted.

Hezbollah received the Israeli messages, yet their people show up at the Ras Al-Nakura border crossing in their full uniform, violating resolution 1701. Palestinian flags were raised everywhere, in addition to photos of Marwan Barghouti. Some even wore the Palestinian Kafiah around their neck. The clear message behind all this is that Hezbollah formally adopts the Palestinian problem. This message was also prominent in the different speeches, including Nasrallah's. One of Hezbollah's websites defined Bint Jabal as the “pearl of the Galil”. Hezbollah signals that the Galil is a part of Lebanon, continuing its request to get back villages in the Galil. In other words, even if Israel gives the Shebaa farms to Lebanon, there will not be a general cleanup of all the problems with Hezbollah, but new files will open up.

A lot of grief fills the Israeli blogosphere – grief over the death of these soldiers, and the crushed hopes for their condition. It does not help that Israeli media is highlighting the celebrations across Lebanon and Palestine. Israel Harel writes:

The doubts, for those who had, have been crushed. And the heart, as it has been this whole time, beats with the families. But as a nation, we have no reason to be proud of what happened yesterday. Not like this, in such a disrespectful manner, should we have fulfilled our duties towards our sons. Not like this, when a terrorist organization deceives us until the last second, should we have returned our sons to their homeland. But the State of Israel, almost in any field, does not act as a sovereign state. And it agreed, as Hezbollah foresaw, to this humiliating deal.

We are a moral society, hence we will always pay higher prices.
But a moral society does not let terrorists abuse it. A moral society does not surrender to immoral extortion and does not pay a price that jeopardizes the future of its soldiers and citizens and seeds future abductions. A moral society teaches the abductees a lesson and makes them reach a conclusion that abductions are not worthwhile.

May both soldiers rest in peace.

17 comments

  • May the souls of the innocent Palestinian children like Ayah al Najjar, who was murdered by an Israeli rocket while she was playing in her backyard, and activists like the American Rachel Corrie murdered by an Israeli bulldozer while she was protesting the demolishing of a Palestinian home to build an Israeli settlement in its place… may they also rest in peace, because they didn’t carry a gun or wear a military uniform as did the Israeli military soldiers that you mourn, they had a hand in taking these innocent lives.

  • Ysamine –
    Rachel Corrie was killed accidentally as she sat in front of a bulldozer – “The driver at no point saw or heard Corrie. She was standing behind debris which obstructed the view of the driver and the driver had a very limited field of vision due to the protective cage he was working in.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Corrie

    This is highly unfortunate, but it is also her negligence. This should not happen but was certainly unintentional. The bulldozer was not planning to kill her, just do his job. How can u compare that to the cold-blood killing that Samir Kuntar carried out in Nahariya?

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    How can I compare? Logically.

    Let me try to simply this for you so that we avoid further misunderstandings.

    You mourn the death of soldiers that wear a uniform that gives them the license to kill, in my comment to you, I mention one small example out of dozens of innocent Palestinian civilians that were killed by the Israeli military… the first example I mentioned was the child Ayah Al Najjar. The second Rachel Corrie…

    In the case of Rachel Corrie, to say that she was not ‘seen’ is completely insane, and no rational person will accept that, as all eyewitnesses on the scene reject that the bulldozers did not see her as well, and those eye witnesses are all international activists, and not Palestinians, they were there, so that they protest the Israeli military’s demolishing of Palestinian homes to build Jewish settlements in their place.

    Your line of defense, your claim of innocence in the face of such a violent atrocity committed by the Israelis undermines our intelligence as human beings; no one buys

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    this nonsense Giliad, do you? This is what the Israeli military also did when they massacred dozens of children in Qana during the war on Lebanon two summers ago, and then said, Hezbollah was using the children as human shields, and so what if they were? Your strategy as a military is to create another holocaust to get to Hezbollah; you kill the children and then say that Hezbollah the terrorist organization brought it onto themselves? What sort of rationale are we dealing with here exactly? Is Israel insane?

    In the end, what you are trying to tell me is that the bulldozer did not mean to kill Rachel Corrie, because he was just doing his job, which is to demolish and uproot the home of a Palestinian family… to build a Jewish settlement in its place? Why, what did the Palestinian family do to deserve this? Exist in a racist state called Israel? Well let me tell you something, as an activist, as a human, Rachel Corrie was ‘just doing her job’ too.

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    Allow me to quote the site that you linked me to (Wikipedia, although I would prefer to link to human rights groups and websites instead, oh well!),
    “Rachel Corrie (April 10, 1979 – March 16, 2003) was an American member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who traveled to the Gaza Strip during the Second Intifada. She was killed by a Caterpillar D9 armoured bulldozer operated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during a protest against the destruction of Palestinian homes by the IDF in the Gaza Strip.[1] The details of the events surrounding Corrie’s death are disputed; an Israeli military investigation ruled the death was an accident, while the ISM maintains that Corrie was run over deliberately… Amnesty International USA called for an independent inquiry, with Christine Bustany, their advocacy director for the Middle East, saying that “U.S.-made bulldozers have been ‘weaponized’ and their transfer to Israel must be suspended.”[22] U.S. Representative Brian Baird introduced House Concurrent Resolution 111 in the U.S. Congress on March 25, 2003, calling on the U.S. government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Corrie’s death. The House of Representatives took no action on the resolution.[23] The Corrie family joined Representative Baird in calling for a U.S. investigation.[24] Baird, though reelected in 2004 and again in 2006, has not reintroduced the resolution in the Congress.
    Human Rights Watch, a group which has repeatedly criticized Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza, on a web page devoted to a number of non-natives of the area who have been killed by IDF action, questioned the quality of the investigation, stating that its own communication with Palestinian and ISM individuals involved “indicates that the impartiality and professionalism of the Israeli investigation into Corrie’s death are highly questionable.”[25]
    On January 18, 2003, Corrie traveled to the Gaza Strip, where she attended two days of training in non-violent resistance[citation needed] and serving as human shields to impede house demolition in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.[1] The IDF operation had previously demolished three buildings and several walls in the area.[2] Through February and March, according to ISM activists and e-mails Corrie sent to her family, she took part in a mock trial of George W. Bush; a demonstration as part of the February 15, 2003 anti-war protest against the war in Iraq, where she burned a paper U.S. flag; and helped to occupy the area around local wells, an operation the ISM described as designed to protect the wells and Palestinian workers from the IDF.
    In e-mails to her family, Corrie described what she witnessed and expressed her frustration over it. On March 14, 2003 in an interview with the Middle East Broadcasting network, she said: “I feel like I’m witnessing the systematic destruction of a people’s ability to survive … Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realize there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying to kill the people I’m having dinner with.”

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    Because Rachel Corrie and Ayah Al Najjar, did not send my point across to you, allow to list innocent Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli Military and the two soldiers that you so dramatically mourn , here we go:

    1. Kifah Khalid Zu’rub (Died after Israeli forces prevented him from reaching hospital despite his critical condition caused by settler dogs attack).
    2. Ahmad Al’an (He was shot dead near the Shilo settlement as he was driving home to his village of Qaryut.)
    3. Kamal Sa’eed Mosalam (He was injured in his head when a settler hit him with stone)
    4. Mousa Radi Mahariq (He was killed by 4 live ammunition by Israeli soldiers when he went out of his tent near the Security wall.)
    5. Shahed Bassem Abed Al Latif Abu Zitounah (She died when the Israeli soldiers prevented the ambulance carrying her from passing to the hospital.)
    6. Abed Allah Fathi Qideh (Died by heart stroke when the Israeli Soldiers prevented the ambulance to take him to the hospital while the Israeli soldiers were entering Khan-Yunis.)

    7. Ismail Haboush (Died at Airez checkpoint as soldiers delayed him at the checkpoint for 10 hours while he was going to the hospital)
    8. Na’imah Abdel Rahman al-Sheikh Khalel (Died as a result of a nervous shock caused by the Israeli gunfire at Netzarim Junction/ Gaza Strip)
    9. Rana Adel Abdel Rahim Hamad (She was stopped at a military checkpoint and prevented from reaching hospital on time and so the baby died first and then the mother.)
    10. Hussein Obeyat (Missiles fired from helicopters in Beit-Sahour)
    11. Missiles fired from helicopters in Beit-Sahour (Israeli soldiers opened heavy fire outside al-Quds Open University in Nablus)
    12. Ahmad Ismail Ayesh (Was shot outside his house)

    13. Mahmoud Suleiman al-Madani (Mahmoud Suleiman al-Madani)
    14. Yousef Alsakrouji family (Killed in cold blood by an Israeli special unit while they were asleep.)
    15. Nazih Mahmoud Mas’od Abu al-Siba’a (was killed by a car explosion while he was walking near to the al-Nur Mosque)

    Click onto this link for a list of 6054 documents deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by the Israelis so the that the ‘chosen ones’ set up the state of Israel over the blood of the Palestinians, then weep, and mourn, that they are the ones that are terrorized by the Arabs. How does the aggressor play the victim… Oh, the shame of being Israeli.
    http://www.phrmg.org/aqsa/fatalities_list.htm

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    Because Rachel Corrie and Ayah Al Najjar, did not send my point across to you, allow to list innocent Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli Military and the two soldiers that you so dramatically mourn , here we go:

    1. Kifah Khalid Zu’rub (Died after Israeli forces prevented him from reaching hospital despite his critical condition caused by settler dogs attack).
    2. Ahmad Al’an (He was shot dead near the Shilo settlement as he was driving home to his village of Qaryut.)
    3. Kamal Sa’eed Mosalam (He was injured in his head when a settler hit him with stone)
    4. Mousa Radi Mahariq (He was killed by 4 live ammunition by Israeli soldiers when he went out of his tent near the Security wall.)
    5. Shahed Bassem Abed Al Latif Abu Zitounah (She died when the Israeli soldiers prevented the ambulance carrying her from passing to the hospital.)
    6. Abed Allah Fathi Qideh (Died by heart stroke when the Israeli Soldiers prevented the ambulance to take him to the hospital while the Israeli soldiers were entering Khan-Yunis.)
    7. Ismail Haboush (Died at Airez checkpoint as soldiers delayed him at the checkpoint for 10 hours while he was going to the hospital)
    8. Na’imah Abdel Rahman al-Sheikh Khalel (Died as a result of a nervous shock caused by the Israeli gunfire at Netzarim Junction/ Gaza Strip)
    9. Rana Adel Abdel Rahim Hamad (She was stopped at a military checkpoint and prevented from reaching hospital on time and so the baby died first and then the mother.)
    10. Hussein Obeyat (Missiles fired from helicopters in Beit-Sahour)
    11. Missiles fired from helicopters in Beit-Sahour (Israeli soldiers opened heavy fire outside al-Quds Open University in Nablus)
    12. Ahmad Ismail Ayesh (Was shot outside his house)
    13. Mahmoud Suleiman al-Madani (Mahmoud Suleiman al-Madani)
    14. Yousef Alsakrouji family (Killed in cold blood by an Israeli special unit while they were asleep.)
    15. Nazih Mahmoud Mas’od Abu al-Siba’a (was killed by a car explosion while he was walking near to the al-Nur Mosque)

    Click onto this link for a list of 6054 documents deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by the Israelis so the that the ‘chosen ones’ set up the state of Israel over the blood of the Palestinians, then weep, and mourn, that they are the ones that are terrorized by the Arabs. How does the aggressor play the victim… Oh, the shame of being Israeli.

    http://www.phrmg.org/aqsa/fatalities_list.htm

  • Yasmine –
    I am in no way saying one life is worth more than another, nor that one killing is more justified than another. But I can’t stress enough my condemnation towards the tactics that Hezbollah and Hamas use – getting the world’s attention by operating close to civilian populations and many times using them as human shields. It is right to fight for attention, it is important to raise issues, but not under their current manifesto. It has been difficult for me to watch is the local support that these organizations are gaining. When a fighter who was sent over to intentionally kidnap and kill civilians is treated as a national hero upon his return, I am disgusted.

    You’d like to think that Corrie was killed with intent, by ruthless militants who only want to destroy a people and drive them to the sea. Satanize this enemy state so its much easier to hate. But the truth of the matter is that the bulldozer driver was trying to do his job, follow orders, and a highly unfortunate incident occurred. Yes – his job was to crush the home of a Palestinian family whom is directly connected to a terrorist who acted against civilians in Israel. The truth is that this event was an accident, and was highly criticized by Israelis and Israeli media. I am in no way justifying her death. What I am trying to present to you is the Israeli perspective, rooted in this main difference: intent and critical thinking. I agree it is a tricky argument, but one thing I am sure of – in order for us to have a dialogue, we must first try our best to understand each other’s perspectives.

    As for the Qana events, I like you, was horrified once the details came out. Yasmine – nobody in Israel celebrated these horrible events, the army does not see this as a success. The military’s strategy was to fight and weaken Hezbollah, and gain back the two kidnapped soldiers who were taken from the Israeli side of the border. You have absolutely no right to use the word holocaust. Go back to refresh your knowledge of history before you dare to use that word. There is no systematic killing here, no intentional plan to take down a certain population or race. This is was a war, a shameful war for both sides. But the least we can do is try to learn from the events and make sure that never happens again.

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    Gilad, do stop this nonsense pls.

    “But the truth of the matter is that the bulldozer driver was trying to do his job, follow orders, and a highly unfortunate incident occurred. Yes – his job was to crush the home of a Palestinian family whom is directly connected to a terrorist who acted against civilians in Israel.”

    Had that been the case,(pls provide me with documents that state so, when the Rachel Corrie murder was covered by the media, Israel went all out to defend itself and yet could not provide such documents, it is the right of the people to see for themselves) and, lets presume what you say to be correct for the sake of argument only, then, what sort of sorry state do you live in the legitimizes the destruction of a family home, in which innocent grandparents and innocent children live because they are ‘connected’ to a terrorist? What law adheres to this? And what law then allows the Israeli to build a Jewish settlement on 100% confiscated Palestinian land? You’re argument, is nonsense, and I know this is the kind of garbage that the Zionist state spews at it’s Israeli citizens, if only you would understand the atrocities that your state is built upon, and the pools and pools of innocent blood. My dear, I see no terrorists but the Israelis, and the Palestinians, are fighting for their land, for their lives, for food, water, education, for their freedom. You fight for a racist and apartheid state, you defend it… Holocaust victims made a promise, they promised, “never again”… Oh, but there you go again, but this time, the victim turned into the monster. As Edward Said emphasised, what the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba is to the Palestinians. Your Holocaust had a beginning, and an end, but ours, its ongoing, the slaughter is ongoing. This will go down in history, and one day there will be justice, because it always prevails, no matter how long it takes, humanity, always, finally rejects injustice… I believe that one day; the Israelis will vomit out their bloody history in an Israeli state of violent inhuman dysfunctional beings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sCRmASPfis

    And let us be crystal clear here, I celebrate Samir Kuntar. The criminals, are the Israeli military.

  • Demolishing peoples’ homes is a punishment the State of Israel deploys – a logical consequence and political weapon. Many of these family homes are used as bases to make weapons, plan attacks, or harbour terrorists, all with the knowledge of the family. That is the point the Israeli government wishes to communicate; that there are dire and immediate consequences to harboring and supporting terrorist, even if they are family. IMHO – it is not always a justified form of punishment, as in the case of the first bulldozer incident in Jerusalem. But you can understand the reasoning.

    Yasmine – you are so wrapped up in your hate and your version of the truth. I pity you because you celebrate a person who ruthlessly and intentionally kills civilians. Those who intentionally kill civilians should not be praised nor made heroes. There is a lot of criticism within Israel over IDF’s operations, especially those which result in civilian casualties. Those events are not celebrated, but criticized. Why do I not see any internal criticism on your side of the wall? Why are there celebrations upon killing Israeli civilians? I can understand your feeling regarding soldiers, but civilians? kids? Shame on you.

    “During that notoriously brutal attack, Kuntar dragged 32 year-old Danny Haran and his 4 year-old daughter, Einat, from their apartment to the nearby beach. He killed Haran by shooting him in the back and then drowning him, while Einat watched. According to forensic evidence and eyewitness court testimony, Kuntar then killed the 4 year-old girl by smashing her skull against the rocks with the butt of his rifle. The Nahariya attack is considered the most brutal in Israel’s history. It is seared on the collective Israeli consciousness.”

    It saddens me that even the both of us, authors on this site, cannot have a solid conversation. You do not want to have a conversation, nor do u provide any constructive arguments. You want to point a finger at a satanic enemy you’re too busy creating. I realize that a lot of the misunderstandings between us arise from the fact that we have been presented with different media coverage, different facts, different versions of the “truth”.

    If you are ready to have an actual conversation, write personally to my email. Otherwise, I’ve got better things to do.

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