There is much talk now about a possible prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah, in which Israel releases an undisclosed number of prisoners — the most infamous being Samir Kuntar, who murdered a Jewish family in Nahariya in 1979– in exchange for Israeli soldiers Eldad Regav and Ehud Goldwasser. Yesterday, government officials told Israeli radio that the exchange would likely take place “between June 20 and June 25.”
Funny, those dates. You see, June 25 is the date that the Knesset is expected to vote on its dissolution and the collapse of the Olmert government, a vote which is likely to pass, given that in addition to the opposition parties, the number two and three coalition partners, Labor and Shas, have expressed their intention to support it. We should not be surprised if Olmert tries everything until then to prove his worth as Prime Minister, by coming as close to cutting deals with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. His political desperation has already ruffled the feathers of Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN official in charge of overseeing the implementation of UN resolution 1559, which covered Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Last week Larsen charged Israel with giving the Syrian regime a huge boost of undeserved legitimacy. “Israel has given Syria a huge gift,” he told Israeli diplomats, “without thus far receiving anything in exchange.”
But at the same time, Olmert’s determination not to end his political career in infamy has forced him to call Ehud Barak’s bluff with regard to the ultimatum Barak issued last week, according to which Olmert must step aside in favor of another Kadima figure or face elections. Today Olmert declared that he will continue to lead Kadima, running for the party chairmanship despite everything. This will make it much harder for Barak to keep his party in the government.