Gov't teams to forge 'kidnapping policy'

Swap for Regev, Goldwasser expected in a "week or so;" Israel likely to pay a heavy price for the two.

Ehud Goldwasser 224 (photo credit: Channel 1)
Ehud Goldwasser 224
(photo credit: Channel 1)
Teams have been set up in the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office to draft a government policy for when soldiers are kidnapped by terrorist organizations, a top defense official has told The Jerusalem Post. The new policy will not go into effect until after the IDF soldiers abducted in 2006 - Gilad Schalit (held in Gaza), and Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser (held in Lebanon) - return home, according to the official. Other defense officials said Saturday that while the deal with Hizbullah for Regev and Goldwasser had been finalized, it would take a "week or so" for the exchange to take place. "These are mainly procedural issues," the official said. "The cabinet will need to meet, approve the deal, and then it will take time for it to be carried out." Israel would likely need to pay a heavy price for the return of Schalit, Goldwasser and Regev, the top defense official said. In exchange for the two reservists held by Hizbullah, Israel is expected to release several Lebanese prisoners, chief among them Samir Kuntar, responsible for the deaths of three civilians and a policeman in Nahariya in 1979, as well as the bodies of close to a dozen guerrillas killed during the Second Lebanon War. Hamas is demanding the release of 450 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for Schalit. "We need to reconsider if this is the right policy, since there are major problems with releasing so many terrorists," the defense official said, adding that the release of live terrorists for dead soldiers was "extremely difficult." There has been no sign of life from either Goldwasser or Regev since they were abducted on July 12, 2006, and it is believed that they were seriously wounded during their capture. The call to formulate a clear policy for dealing with instances of kidnapped soldiers and not to agree to "crazy deals" in negotiations with terrorists that only increase their motivation to abduct soldiers was made in January by the Winograd Committee in its final report on the Second Lebanon War. The report included a chapter titled "Kidnapping - A Strategic Threat" that stressed the sensitivity of the issue, and argued that the absence of a kidnapping policy was harmful to national security. "The lack of a clear and detailed policy - at all the different levels - for dealing with the kidnapping threat is a strategic mistake and even weakens Israel," the report read. "It is clear that as long as we appear vulnerable, the price for the return of the soldier is higher and the motivation to kidnap additional soldiers increases." In the report, the committee members mentioned the United States' declared policy of not negotiating with terrorists as partially responsible for minimizing the number of attempts to kidnap American soldiers. The committee recommended that Israel engage in a dialogue with its allies that face the same threat and formulate a joint policy that would enjoy international legitimacy and encourage cooperation.