Analysts: 'The exchange is a mistake'

Cabinet ministers disregard objections of Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs assessments of deal.

meir dagan 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
meir dagan 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Defense chiefs and security analysts denounced the prisoner deal with Hizbullah approved by the cabinet on Sunday, saying it will harm Israeli deterrence, encourage future kidnappings, and endanger the lives of Israelis who may one day find themselves being held at gunpoint by the Lebanese terrorist organization. The cabinet chose to disregard the objections of Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin, both of whom asked ministers to reject the swap. Their stance was backed by Dr. Boaz Ganor, executive director of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. "Hizbullah has, for a long period of time, been trying to change the rules of the game of hostage negotiations," Ganor told The Jerusalem Post. "I believe this deal marks out a future direction for hostage deals. The fact that Israel surrendered on almost every clause [of Hizbullah's demands] will produce future operations against Israel." "Israel has acted as if the solders were alive, and today it has transpired that the hostages are dead. From Hizbullah's standpoint, that is a success," he said. "With all due respect to the commitment Israel has to every Israeli soldier sent out on its behalf, in the name of those same values, Israel is obligated to exchange live hostage for live soldiers, or dead hostages for dead soldiers. If, God forbid, one of us is kidnapped by Hizbullah in the future, the kidnapper can say he does not care whether we live or die, because of past precedents," he added. The hostage swap was yet another nail in the coffin of the concept of a proportional exchange of prisoners that has already been buried by past hostage deals, such as the 2004 release of 400 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for Elhanan Tennenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in 2000, all captured by Hizbullah, Ganor said. "This current deal endangers future hostages. The message to the opponent is that we are a side that can be slaughtered. And with such a message, we will end up being slaughtered. That's why this is a bad deal," he said. Dr. Ely Karmon, an Institute for Counter-Terrorism expert on Shi'ite movements and terrorism, also described the deal as a mistake. "Because there was no information given on the condition of the hostages, it was wrong to reach an arrangement," Karmon said. "I agree that this will strengthen Hizbullah, and Hamas, which is in a similar situation. It will harm Israel's deterrence." Israel was in a poor bargaining position to begin with because not enough Hizbullah prisoners were taken during the Second Lebanon War, he said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan] Halutz said the point of the war was to bring back the kidnapped soldiers, Karmon said. But we only took four to five Hizbullah prisoners. There was not enough of a real effort, he said. "The release of [Samir] Kuntar will be presented by Hizbullah as a victory. So will the release of Palestinian prisoners. How will we appear in the eyes of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah? Automatically, this will also strengthen Iran and the Syrians. The whole camp will come out stronger," Karmon added. He said Hizbullah would not release any substantial information on [IAF navigator] Ron Arad, "because the Iranians don't want such information released. Iran is not interested in a deal on Arad because they are under pressure over their nuclear program. They've been denying any connection to the Arad case, and if Arad's body would suddenly be released, Iran would look like a big liar. So they've opted not to bother."