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Israel: Why did Israel Approve the Hezbollah Deal?

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Israel, Lebanon, Breaking News, Politics, War & Conflict

A day after the controversial deal with Hezbollah [1], 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 [2] 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 [3] 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 [4] 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 [5]. Palestinian flags were raised everywhere, in addition to photos of Marwan Barghouti [6]. 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 Israel Harel [7] 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.