Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Surprising Hezbollah Swap

Israelis were surprised yesterday by the sudden swap of one Israeli dead body in exchange for two dead Hezbollah fighters and one 50-year old Lebanese prisoner. Not only did we not know there was a deal in the works, we never even heard of the dead Israeli before, even though he had been missing since January 2005. Gavriel Davit apparently drowned in Israeli waters near Haifa and his body was swept away by the currents of the Mediterranean into Lebanon. The deal also included information about the whereabouts of Israeli Air Force officer Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon in 1986. Apparently the info was neither new nor useful.

This is quite an odd deal. It's supposed to be a trust-building step on the way to a bigger prisoner exchange which would include the return of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hezbollah on July 12, 2006, triggered the Second Lebanon War. But Hezbollah is still insisting that a precondition to any information about their condition is the release of hundreds of prisoners. Unfortunately, this probably means that Regev and Goldwasser are already dead, so there isn't any real reason to keep talking to Hezbollah. Prisoners should not be released in exchange for information or dead bodies - only in exchange for live captives.

The release of one prisoner yesterday is not that bad compared with the release in 2004 of four hundred terrorists in exchange for three dead soldiers and one Israeli drug dealer, but it isn't that great either. The Israeli government says that since he's in his 50's and apparently lost his sanity in prison, he's not a threat to Israel. Alright, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Unless I'm wrong about the two soldiers being dead, I don't see how yesterday's exchange is a positive move in any direction. It isn't as if we're in peace talks with Hezbollah. Peace is not on their minds.

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