Friday, July 18, 2008

israel hands hezbollah a propaganda victory in a futile prisoner swap

would you free ian huntley for the dead victim's body to be returned to their family ? the answer would surely be no , yet Israel has released samil Kuntar - a person who killed a whole family including 3 innocent young children 30 years ago for the bodies of ehud goldwasser and eldad regev - that's not to mention the other hezbollah prisoners . In other words Israel has given up a murderer for almost no gain- here are some articles which explain this very well

Israeli critics question lopsided prisoner swap By STEVEN GUTKIN and ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writers
Wed Jul 16, 5:31 PM ET

JERUSALEM - Critics of Israel's lopsided prisoner exchange with Lebanese guerrillas said Wednesday that such deals only encourage more hostage-taking — a fear underscored by Gaza militants who said the swap proves that kidnapping is the only language Israel understands.


The deal, in which a notorious Lebanese attacker, four other militants and the bodies of 199 Arab fighters were traded for two dead Israeli soldiers, closed a painful chapter from Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon.

But it also raised questions about whether Israel should reconsider its policy of bringing back every soldier from the battlefield at just about any cost.

Israel has been carrying out unequal prisoner swaps for decades, including handing over 4,600 Palestinian and Lebanese captives in 1983 in exchange for six captured Israeli soldiers. In the past it's even traded live prisoners for bodies, as it did Wednesday.

The rationale for such trades was a wartime ethic seen as essential in Israel's early days to instilling loyalty and commitment from its troops.

In today's world of asymmetric warfare — with militant groups increasingly focused on kidnapping as a way to pressure Israel and with the fight against terrorism now a worldwide challenge — the lopsided swaps could have graver consequences than in the past.

"What we've done now has made kidnapping soldiers the most profitable game in town," said Israeli security expert Martin Sherman.

"There is absolutely no reason why Hezbollah should not invest huge resources now, along with Hamas, in the next kidnapping."

The issue is of immediate concern because the government is deeply involved in indirect negotiations to free its other captive soldier, Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Unlike Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two soldiers whose bodies were returned Wednesday, Schalit is believed to be alive.

Following this week's Cabinet vote that cleared the way for the Hezbollah deal, Construction Minister Zeev Boim, one of only three ministers to vote against it, said he was afraid the swap would make it harder for Israel to win the release of Schalit.

"No one should be surprised if Hamas will now raise the price for freeing him," he said.

Hamas made it clear Wednesday that it intended to do just that.

"As there was an honorable exchange today, we are determined to have an honorable exchange for our own prisoners" held in Israeli jails, Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said. "Let them answer our demands." Israel holds about 10,000 Palestinians in prison.

Haniyeh's spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri went further, saying the swap "shows that the only successful way to free the prisoners is by kidnapping soldiers."

Explaining his opposition, Boim, the construction minister, said Wednesday: "We needed, in my opinion, to take this opportunity to change the rules we were dragged into many years ago, which have led to many lopsided deals."

But the Israeli military said the deal drove home the Jewish state's deep commitment to its soldiers.

"This painful process exemplifies Israel's moral commitment to secure the return of all of their soldiers sent out on operational missions," said a statement Wednesday from the Israeli Defense Forces. "It demonstrates a compelling moral strength which stems from Judaism, Israeli societal values and from the spirit of the IDF."

Wednesday's exchange involved freeing a Lebanese militant convicted of what many consider to be among the most gruesome crimes inflicted on Israelis in their history.

Samir Kantar was sentenced to three life terms for killing an Israeli man in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killing the little girl by smashing her skull with his rifle butt.

During the grisly attack, the girl's 2-year-old sister was accidentally smothered by her mother during a desperate attempt to silence the child's cries as the two hid in a crawl space.

For Israelis, the 1979 attack was a nightmare scenario feared by many in a nation living in a constant state of war: a terrorist breaking into their home in the middle of the night and kidnapping and killing a family.

Because of the visceral reaction, successive governments held off on including Kantar in any previous swap. Kantar was 16 years old at the time of the attack and he has consistently denied killing the girl, saying she died in crossfire.

That Israel paid such a high price for dead bodies could provide an incentive for militants to kill future hostages, said Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the opposition Likud Party.

"This is a very dangerous precedent," he said. "We are telling them that they don't have to do their utmost to keep captive soldiers alive, to save them if captured."

Nor was the high price of the swap lost on ordinary Palestinians.

"Nobody would have expected that Israel would give up the likes of Samir Kantar. Hezbollah has shown that they are mighty people, and Israel is afraid of them and had to meet their demands," said Samar Mohammed, a 23-year-old architect in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Despite the criticism in Israel, the swap could provide a badly needed boost for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose grip on power is gravely threatened by a burgeoning corruption probe.

Olmert launched a monthlong war against Hezbollah in June 2006 in response to the servicemen's capture. His handling of the war was widely criticized, and he has been under considerable pressure to resolve the issue of the soldiers' fate.

Wednesday's swap closed a painful chapter from the war, and Israelis reacted to confirmation of the young men's death with a mixture of anguish and anger.

One of the soldiers' aunts sank to the ground in despair, and other mourners demanded revenge, chanting "Nasrallah, you will pay" — referring to Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

2.Hezbollah prisoners freed in exchange for dead Israeli soldiers
2 days ago

BEIRUT (AFP) — Five Lebanese prisoners freed by Israel arrived to a hero's welcome in Lebanon Wednesday, hours after Hezbollah handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized by its guerrillas two years ago.

Among those freed in a prisoner swap greeted with triumph in Lebanon but anguish in Israel was Samir Kantar , who was sentenced to five life terms for a 1979 triple murder, including of a child.

The prisoners were transported to Lebanon late afternoon in a convoy of four International Committee of the Red Cross vehicles via the Naqura border crossing, where they were cheered and applauded by crowds of Hezbollah supporters who had been waiting all day for their arrival.

They were then flown by helicopters to Beirut, where they were accorded a red carpet welcome by Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the entire cabinet and a host of lawmakers and religious leaders.

The five -- Kantar and Hezbollah fighters Khaled Zidan, Maher Kurani, Mohammed Sarur and Hussein Suleiman -- stood on a platform as Sleiman spoke and then shook hands with the politicians lined up to greet them.

"Your return is a new victory and the future in your presence will be a path in which we will realise the sovereignty of our territory and the liberty of our people," Sleiman said.

"I tell Samir and his companions that they have a right to be proud of their country, their army and their resistance."

Kantar kissed his mother, Siham Kantar, 71, after the meet and greet with the politicians as crowds and the media swarmed around him.

His mother had burst into tears while waiting earlier at the airport when she was told that her son had arrived in Naqura and was indeed free after more than 28 years in jail.

"I never gave up hope for a day," she said, choked by emotion.

"This moment makes up for 30 years of waiting. I want to hug and kiss him. My only wish is to see him."

The four freed Hezbollah fighters were captured in the July-August 2006 war which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel were also freed. They and Kantar were the last remaining Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah made a rare public appearance at celebrations attended by tens of thousands of people in the southern suburbs of Beirut Wednesday night.

"The period of defeat is over and the time of victory has arrived," Nasrallah said at the celebrations marking the success of emptying Israeli jails of Lebanese prisoners.

"This people and this nation and this country that gave a clear picture to the world... cannot be defeated," he added.

Kantar told the cheering crowds he thanked God for giving him the strength to endure his almost three-decade imprisonment, which made him the longest-serving Arab prisoner in Israel.

The five prisoners were released in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev , captured on July 12, 2006.

The fate of the two soldiers was not known until their bodies were returned to Israel Wednesday morning.

"Today we hand over Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev," Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa said at Naqura, as men placed two black coffins on the ground amid a crowd of onlookers.

The mood in Israel had been sombre as it waited to learn the fate of Goldwasser and Regev, whose capture in a deadly cross-border raid in July 2006 triggered a devastating 34-day war in Lebanon.

"Both soldiers have been identified," an army spokeswoman told AFP after forensic tests on the remains.

Goldwasser's family broke down in cries of despair when they saw the footage of Hezbollah handing over the caskets, while neighbours gathered around the Regev home, lighting candles and quietly shedding tears.

"Eldad! Eldad! What have they done to you?" wailed Regev's aunt Hana.

Many in Israel question whether the nation is paying too high a price for the return of the soldiers who are to be buried on Thursday, saying the swap risks bolstering its arch foes in the region.

Israel also was to transfer to Lebanon the remains of 199 Palestinian and Hezbollah fighters exhumed over the past week.

Among the first bodies handed over was that of Dalal al-Moghrabi , who led a bloody commando attack in 1978 that Israelis describe as the "Coastal Road Massacre."

She was killed in a battle with Israeli forces after her group blew up a bus they had hijacked on the road between Tel Aviv and Haifa, killing 36 people.

Lebanese television showed footage of a convoy of trucks crossing into Lebanon Wednesday evening carrying the bodies of the remaining fighters.

They were due to be transported to Beirut Thursday morning, Hezbollah said in a statement.

Israel's Jerusalem Post newspaper has billed the festivities in Lebanon as "a celebration of evil."

Israeli commentators warned the swap had given a propaganda victory to Hezbollah, setting a dangerous precedent for any future exchanges and possibly encouraging new attempts by militant groups to seize Israeli soldiers.

3 -my view- SO A Propaganda victory for hezbollah and Hamas rewarding them for their deadly acts - i hope Mr Olmert and his cabinet can live with the disastrous decision they have just made . Oh and also - the response by Mahmoud Abbas praising samil kuntar shows this man is no friend of peace -he is a supporter and lover of terrorism just like his former master Arafat-yet olmert deals with him -because Olmert likes giving in to terrorists as just shown