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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

  • Yasmine Abu Khazneh

    “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.”

    This, makes Israel a terrorist state, because it violates human rights laws. This is not allowed, do you understand? It is not an allowed punishment in this day and age. Israel, when it wants to expands its settlements, uses the ‘terrorist’ ticket. No one buys this Gilad, all human rights organizations are trying to stop this, and this is why Rachel Corrie was standing in front of the bulldozer on the day that she died. she sent letters to her family, telling them, these people that I live with, they have nothing to do with terrorism and the Israelis say that when they want to expand a settlement. The state of Israel has no right to confiscate Palestinian land, to give it to an Israeli… if it is not an apartheid racist state, why doesn’t it give the land to Palestinians instead? There are many homeless Palestinians because Israel will not allow them to build homes.

    Are you beginning to comprehend the absurdity of what you are saying? No sane educated person will tell you that what you are saying is not a violation of human rights. In the modern world my dear, the punishment is made to fit the crime.

    You say I am full of hate, I am full of logic, as a logical person, it is not enough for me to hear you say that this and that are guilty because the state of Israel says so, if you want to convince me, I ask you to provide me with evidence, and documents, and I have searched! None exist. My parents, owned land, that was confiscated from them to build Israeli settlements, and I assure you, neither of us are terrorists, so what happened there?

    Samir Kuntar, was sentenced to imprisonment for life, and he confessed to the murder of soldiers, who would have shot him anyhow had they the better aim, but as for the children, he is innocent, maintains that he is so, and the Israeli government was not able to prove otherwise except through the Israeli witness. So excuse me if I am skeptical… As for Kuntar, I celebrate him; he is a triumph for Hezbollah.

    You have a version of lies, I have my version of the truth, please provide me with documents and proof, that is provided by the human rights organizations in Palestine and I will be very happy to change my view on things, but if you are asking me to be deaf and blind, then I ask you to excuse me, and excuse anyone else with an iota of intelligence.

    I have always been ready to have an actual conversation here, where others are welcome to read, and decline your offer for a personal one. You need not reply, if you have better things to do, I do not comment so that you reply, I comment for the people that read them.

  • Mr, yasmine, no matter what prove or evidence u provide against israel they will always deny the facts. that is why they are using all the media in their possesion for propaganda, that always shows them as the good guy and the arabs the bad guy

  • I think the problem in this conversation is that you are arguing over facts while you should be arguing over values.
    Innocent people should not be killed.

    Yasmine, can you agree that the fighting between Israel and Palestinians don’t have an ultimate victim and an ultimate villain?

    In Israel, not all people are exposed to the difficulties of the Palestinian life. All they see is the killing and suffering the suicide bombers cause. The same goes for soldiers. Most just want to protect their family, friends and country from terrorists. The terrorists don’t fight just people that occupy their land or people that kill Palestinians. They kill Israelis without distinction. I never occupied any land. The place I live in was bought legitimately from the Arabs that used to live here. This doesn’t promise me safety. I never chose to be born in Israel or an ideology to suppress anyone. But It’s still possible for me or people I know and are the same to die from Palestinian attacks. I don’t justify killing or hurting innocent Palestinians because I don’t think it’s their fault some other Palestinian killed a Israeli. I don’t think it’s their fault just the same as it isn’t my fault. The child Samir Kuntar killed didn’t oppress anyone. You may not believe Samir Kuntar killed her but at the very least I hope you wouldn’t have supported it if you did think it happened.

  • I think what the problem actually is, is that I argue for the sake of both ‘facts’ and ‘values’… I do not see how they can be separated at all… On the other hand, you argue for whatever rests your case, which, is not the responsible thing to do, and rather manipulative.

    You say, “Innocent people should not be killed”. Exactly. That is what the Palestinians ask for. And yet, every time you kill innocent Palestinian children, confiscate their land, kill extended family of ‘terrorists’, arrest Palestinians without charge and lock them up for years, deny Palestinians access at check points and many of them die while waiting because they seek medical help… I hear you, “Innocent people should not be killed”… but what makes one innocent and what make the other guilty? The sheer “fact” that the guilty is the Palestinian and the “fact” that the innocent is always Israeli?

    “Terrorists” lets understand what that means. The state of Israel violates all of the universal human rights laws towards the Palestinians. You refuse them water, electricity, education, food, buying land, building homes, refugees are refused the right of return, you confiscate their land with no legitimate reason, you bulldoze their houses with no previous warning, you settle in an Israeli family in their place, you terrorize them and expand ILLEGAL settlements… Now lets recap, a human being that has no shelter, food, water, education, land, justice, and lives in a constant state of threat and insecurity, what do you expect from this human being? You treat someone like an animal, except him to become an animal, strap a belt of bombs around his waist and then blow himself up… This Yarden, is why you are not secure, because your existence in that area is an injustice, the fact that you are Israeli, and sing the national anthem to an Israeli state that violates the humanity of so many Palestinians, is why you are constantly afraid of terrorist attempts on your life, if you live legitimately, if you are not a settler, then try and change things as an Israeli in the Israeli state to make things fair for the Palestinian, allow them an education, help them live a life outside the ghetto, give them jobs, give them an education in which the Israeli language and rewritten history is not forced down their throats, give them freedom to roam without check points, break down the apartheid wall, just let them be human… and I don’t think anything you ever do will change the fear you live in unless you seek justice, the only man that has a good nights sleep is he who an easy conscience.

    And no I would not support Samir Kuntar had he killed that child, but he has not, and Samir Kuntar symbolizes the injustice of Israel to me. He was convicted solely because of one Israeli eye witness and had no other proof.

    The Zionist project is not successful. Israel cannot last, especially not after the war on Lebanon. No state can last that relies solely on military force. Israel is not normal. It has to fight, steal land, expand illegally, and kill everyday in order to exist. In Gaza, you need a guard every day, an aeroplane every day, a tank every day, force every day. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism… how does the aggressor become the victim, it’s the monstrous Zionist myth. What terrorism is, “a technique used by a government to manipulate public opinion in order to further an agenda”.

  • […] swap. The liberal US Jewish weekly Forward reluctantly praised the event. Whilst the swap was widely debated within Israel and even criticised within Lebanon, the Western media has focused instead on […]

  • Rachel Page

    Could it be that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel? Is it
    possible that, at last, some of the Arabs State have grasped the fact
    that Hezbollah and their allies are plain and simply terrorist organizations and that terrorism can only harm Arab interests and that a
    real peace with Israel will only benefit ALL Arab states as well as
    Israel. San Antonio Bankruptcy Lawyers

  • Eric Wright

    Hezbollah’s distracting and costly engagement in the Syrian civil war
    has offered some practical benefit to Israelis. It has also been a
    source of foreboding. Eric

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