The Israeli press is aflutter with reports that a deal has been struck with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in which the terror group would return the two kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser whose abduction in 2006 precipitated that summer’s war, in exchange for Israel’s releasing an unspecified number of terrorists. This batch would include Samir Kuntar, whose exploits include the murder of an Israeli family in the coastal town of Nahariya in 1979.
Though it’s not at all clear that this deal will go through–there have been such rumors in the past–there are reasons to be exceptionally cautious in this case. Both Ehud Olmert and Hassan Nasrallah need something, anything, to show their own people: Olmert faces the most serious criminal investigation any Israeli prime minister has ever faced, while Nasrallah has just violated years of promises to the Lebanese that his organization would never turn its weapons on fellow citizens.
Israel has always been prepared to pay a high price to return its captive soldiers. This is as it should be: A country that values life so strongly, that sends its children to defend it, should imbue its soldiers with the belief that if they are taken prisoner, their country will do everything in its power to bring them back alive. At this stage, however, it is not even clear whether they are alive. What is clear, however, is that Olmert’s situation is so desperate that he is likely to do virtually anything for a headline that will save him–including giving away the store to Hezbollah, to Syria, or to anyone else. A lousy bargaining position, and one which Israel’s enemies are likely to milk for all it’s worth.