Zahar: Hizbullah could have gotten more in deal

Says group should have tried to free more Palestinians, and Israel should learn from mistakes with Kuntar.

Mahmoud Zahar 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Mahmoud Zahar 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah should have tried to free more Palestinians as part of the prisoner swap conducted last week, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip was quoted as saying on Sunday. He also reportedly criticized Israel, saying that it should learn the lesson of sparking the Second Lebanon War by not releasing Samir Kuntar earlier. Jerusalem, he advised, could avoid repeating the same mistake by freeing Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands in return for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. "We hoped that a lot more prisoners would've been released, Palestinians and Arabs, especially those in prison since 1948," Zahar said in an interview published by the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Rai al-Aam. "We hoped that five prisoners, including Kuntar, would've been released in the previous prisoner swap [between Hizbullah and Israel in 2004], but that never happened." It bears mention that the four Hizbullah prisoners who were released in the latest deal had been captured in 2006, and were not in Israeli prisons at the time of the previous swap. "It is not possible to compare the situation of Hizbullah with our situation," the Hamas official continued. "Israel has not imposed an economic blockade on Hizbullah or on Lebanon, it has not cut them off geographically, and it does not use border crossings as a means of pressure." Therefore, he said, it was possible "for Hizbullah to achieve a much better deal." He added, however, that Israel should apply its experience with Hizbullah to the current situation with Hamas. "The Israelis must take into account the lesson which came from refusing to release Kuntar in the previous deal on the claim that he had blood on his hands," Zahar said. "What happened? Hizbullah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and transferred them back dead, and Israel got into a war in which it was defeated, and the losses that it suffered were taken into account during the negotiations. "Israel lost its image as a nation that arouses fear and is invincible," he said, adding that if "Kuntar had been released, then the whole business would've been over and Israel wouldn't have suffered the losses it ended up sustaining." "The question," Zohar asked, "is will they learn the lesson from this experience, or will it happen again with Hamas and the issue of the prisoner swap?"