Barak: The IDF cannot stop the 'KIA process'

Nasrallah tells Lebanese paper Israeli declaration that the soldiers are dead won't change deal.

Nasrallah 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Nasrallah 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Defense Minister Ehud Barak personally called the mother of captive reservist Ehud Goldwasser on Wednesday night to tell her that the IDF could not honor her request to halt the process of determining whether her son should be considered killed in action, Miki Goldwasser told The Jerusalem Post. The determination of "killed in action" will be made by OC Chaplaincy Corps Rabbi Avichai Ronsky, who began the examination process for Ehud Goldwasser and reservists Eldad Regev on Monday night. But the Goldwasser family asked that Ronsky's work be stopped after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to bring the issue of a prisoner swap with Hizbullah for the release of the two reservists kidnapped in July 2006 to the cabinet for a vote on Sunday. Barak, however, told Ehud's mother Miki: "You can not stop it [the process] once you go to the rabbi. But he said it doesn't matter because it won't disturb [the cabinet] vote," she said. She added that Barak "promised me that I should not be worried. I, of course, told him that I am still very much worried." According to media reports IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also rejected a similar request made by Olmert Wednesday. The IDF chief rabbi works independently and he could therefore not be ordered to stop the process, Ashkenazi said. He added, however, that declaring the troops killed in action would take up to two weeks. The report was denied by the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday. But Olmert did address the issue of the vote Wednesday when speaking before the plenum. The move to bring it to the cabinet Sunday, he said, was "one of the hardest decisions a prime minister has to make." The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on whether Olmert would support the prisoner swap, which includes the release of Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar. Supporters of the prisoner swap fear that a declaration of "killed in action" would undermine the deal because the release of Kuntar would be deemed too high a price to pay if the reservists are actually dead. Other are wary that it could be a negotiating tactic aimed to drive down the price of the deal. But the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported reported Wednesday that even if Regev and Goldwasser are declared killed the price will remain high. Quoting the group's leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the paper reported that Hizbullah will not allow Israel to "blackmail" it into giving any "discounts" on the deal. According to the paper, Hizbullah demands Israel release Kuntar and a high number of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners, and also return body parts of Hizbullah guerrillas. German mediator Gerhard Konrad has failed in obtaining any information on the condition of Regev and Goldwasser, despite repeated attempts to do so. Reportedly, when Nasrallah heard of Israel's putting in motion the process to declare the soldiers killed in action, he said "[Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] can do whatever he wants, because he will negotiate [with us] whether he declares the soldiers are dead or not. He will then find out my demands are the same demands I present today." Israel's declaring the soldiers killed will only close the "window of maneuverability" it enjoys now, the report said. If Jerusalem does not change its position, Hizbullah will have "a thousand options to improve its situation." Miki Goldwasser told The Jerusalem Post that the events of the past few days have made her very nervous and that she imagines that her family is in for a few more intense days until the vote is held. "I am watching everything very carefully," she said. Already on Sunday and Monday her family, along with members of the Regev family, lobbied ministers to support the deal. "I just want this saga to be over," she said. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.