(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) TEL AVIV, Israel – After numerous failed rescue attempts
and a cease-fire agreement, Israel will try to negotiate a prisoner swap to
secure the release of the two soldiers whose kidnapping by Hezbollah last month
set off the war.
Yesterday, Prime Minister
Olmert appointed a former top security official, Ofer Dekel, to work out how the
two captured soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, can be returned home
Mr. Dekel, once the deputy
chief of Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, also will attempt to
obtain the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in June
in a crossborder raid that provoked Israeli incursions into Gaza.
Two Israeli government
sources said yesterday that Mr. Dekel will work on a prisoner exchange with
Hezbollah, which until now the Olmert government has flatly rejected.
The leader of Hezbollah,
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, also is seeking to negotiate the release of Samir
Kunter, a Lebanese Druze who shot a Nahariya resident, Danny Haran, in 1979 in
front of his daughter, Einat, 4. After killing her father, Kunter smashed Einat
Haran’s face with his rifle butt.
Jerusalem believes it has
a great deal of bargaining power, a senior Israeli official said. “Today, Israel
has more assets [Hezbollah prisoners and bodies] at the end of this conflict
which could help bring about the release of this prisoners,” the official told
The New York Sun on condition of anonymity. “We’ve got people alive and we’ve
An Israeli Foreign
Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, said the official view of his government accords
with U.N. resolution 1701, passed over the weekend. “The U.N. Security Council
resolution says Hezbollah will have to release the soldiers unconditionally,” he
The fate of the three
Israeli soldiers still resonates here, in a nation reeling from a cease-fire few
political leaders outside Mr. Olmert’s Cabinet doubt will lead to a resumption
of war in the future.
Shaul Mofaz said he did not vote to endorse the cease-fire on Sunday because of
the fate of the prisoners.Mr. Olmert said he was obliged at a Cabinet meeting
Sunday to drop his demand that any cessation of hostilities be conditional upon
the return of the soldiers because he did not want to give Hezbollah the ability
to veto the overall deal.
Mr. Olmert’s foreign
minister, Tzipi Livni, has defended the cease-fire deal on the grounds that
Israel managed to extract a written commitment to return the soldiers in a
resolution clause about Lebanese prisoners.
But the U.N.-brokered deal
has come under attack here because the fate of the prisoners only comes in the
preamble of resolution 1701, not in its operative language.
“According to U.N.
practice based on the determination of the International Court of Justice, the
preambular language of U.N. Security Council resolutions is not binding; only
the operative language actually creates legal responsibility,” a former Likud
Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold, told the Sun
The Jewish state has
traded prisoners with Hezbollah in the past. On January 29, 2004, Israel
exchanged 430 Palestinian Arab and Lebanese prisoners for the bodies of three of
its soldiers and a hostage, the Israeli businessman Elhanan
At the time, the German
government acted as negotiator. The Lebanese and Palestinian Arab prisoners were
flown to Germany under the conditions of the deal.
A possible interlocutor
now is the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. Mr. Solana said
on Sunday that he was working to secure the release of the soldiers.
One European diplomat who
requested anonymity said yesterday that the French were also in contact with
Hezbollah about a deal to return Messrs. Goldwasser and Regev. For more than a
week, the diplomat said, the French have privately assured Israel that they can
deliver the two soldiers alive.
with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
How did the Israeli government react to the Hezbollah kidnapping of
Corporal Shalit in June? How did they react to the kidnapping of two
more soldiers in July?
2. Why is Israel going to try to negotiate a prisoner swap to secure the release of the two soldiers, and also Corporal Shalit?
3. Why do you
think that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had until now refused to
negotiate a prisoner exchange? Do you think he is wrong to do so now?
Explain your answer.
4. What does the United Nations resolution 1701 say about the release of the Israeli soldiers? (For the text of U.N. resolution 1701, click here.)
5. What concerns do some have over resolution 1701 as it relates to the release of the soldiers?
6. U.N. resolution 1701 includes the following:
What do you think? Explain your answers to the following questions:
–Should resolution 1701 require Hezbollah to disarm?
–Will resolution 1701 lead to a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah?
For a map of Lebanon, go to WorldAtlas.com