Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Soldier-Prisoner Exchange with Hezbollah & Hamas

Seven Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and two others were abducted in attacks by guerrillas from the militant Hezbollah organization.

The militants attacked two IDF armored Hummer jeeps patrolling along the border with gunfire and explosives, in the midst of massive shelling attacks on Israel's north. Three soldiers were killed in the attack and two were taken hostage. Later in the day, four IDF soldiers were apparently killed when their tank hit a mine some 6 kilometers inside Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that a prisoner exchange was the only way to secure the release of the soldiers, who he said were being held in a "secure and remote" location.

Likewise, Hamas' exiled political leader, Khaled Mashaal, said that the Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured in June, would not be freed without a prisoner swap.

Israel has a history of negotiating prisoner exchanges with her enemies, who have often used hostage taking as a political tool.
In 1985 Israel agreed to the release of more than 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in return for three soldiers taken captive in Lebanon.

Almost 20 years later, a similar deal was reached with the militant group Hizbullah, in which years of German-brokered negotiations led to an agreement between Israel and the militants in early 2004 to release more than 400 militants in exchange for the businessman Tannenbaum Elhanan, who had been captured four years earlier, and the bodies of three soldiers.

Despite a suicide bomber killing 10 Israelis on the day of the prisoners' release, the exchange went ahead without a hitch. Two high-profile guerrilla leaders were among those released, as well as a German national, Stephen Smyrek, who had been caught working for Hizbullah in 1997.

Hamas have also benefited from prisoner exchanges in the past. In 1997, Israel was forced to release the group's spiritual leader, Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, after two Mossad agents were caught by Jordan on a botched mission to assassinate Khaled Mashaal, himself a Hamas leader.
Dispelling reports of a deal with Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said freeing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier would be a "major mistake" and said there can be no negotiations with the "bloody organization."

However, Israel's history proves differently. Israel's past mistakes are coming back to haunt them. The terrorists have precedence and are now willing to exploit it. If I were them, I call Olmert's bluff.

Never negotiate with terrorists.

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