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Releasing Prisoners to the Hizbollah

23 October 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

A prisoner exchange is in the works between Israel and the militant Lebanese Hizbollah Islamicists.  Besides being a political party Hizbollah is also involved in terror planning and execution.  Israel is expected to release over 400 Arab prisoners (including Palestinians) in exchange for Elhanan Tanenbaum, an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers killed on the northern border in October 2000.

Tanenbaum, a reserve artillery colonel, was apparently abducted in one of the Gulf states.  There are claims he was involved in drug deals and/or other misdeeds which his family denies vigorously.  Air force navigator Ron Arad who fell into Lebanese captivity 17 years ago will not be part of the deal since his whereabouts (and whether he is alive or not) are not known since he was shipped to Iran in the 1990’s.  Discussions over an impending agreement have rocked Israeli society over the past few weeks.  Although Prime Minister Sharon is in favor, many ministers are still not sure and the cabinet has still not rendered a decision.

In prisoner exchanges the question is always one of price.  In the mid-1980’s Israel released 1150 Palestinian prisoners for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon.  The Palestinians were not to be involved in any terror activities again, yet over the years they became a major player in Palestinian society and its policies of today.

Just like the extreme radical terrorist Ahmed Jabril became a hero in the previous exchange so Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stands to gain massive political support throughout the Arab and Moslem world should he pull off such a deal.  Shi’ite fundamentalist terror will be proven worthwhile.  Terrorists will also know that if captured they can always be released in an exchange and this will lead to more kidnappings, possibly world-wide.  The defense ministry claims none with “blood on their hands” will be released and most will be at the end of their jail terms.  This has yet to be seen.

With all due respect for the Israeli families involved, the three soldiers are dead and Tanenbaum, as horrible as his situation may be, is only one individual (whatever the circumstances of his kidnapping).  Should just one released terrorist be involved in murdering Israelis in the future, the whole deal will be a failure.  One can rest assured this will most likely be the case.

Firstly Ron Arad must be released, either dead or alive and the full circumstances of his incarceration made public.  Secondly and most important, such a deal is expected to encourage more terrorism.