In a very surprising change in the position of the Israeli government, Ha’aretz reports that the IDF may soon declare Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev “killed in action.” The two soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah in June of 2006, which triggered the summer war two years ago.
In recent reports, the government was said to be in negotiations with Hezbollah via German mediators on an exchange of Samir Kuntar, a convicted murderer held by Israel since 1979, for the two captive soldiers. The government announced that were the two soldiers declared “killed in action,” there would certainly be no deal exchanging Kuntar for their bodies.
While last week there were reports of an imminent deal to be carried out between June 20-25, beginning yesterday the Israeli media reported that the deal was in danger of collapsing after Hezbollah added Palestinian prisoners being released as part of the negotiated deal. Now, it seems that Israel is possibly going to declare the soldiers dead, thereby ending any negotiations regarding Samir Kuntar. It seems likely that Israel would continue to negotiate to retrieve the remains of the soldiers, as has been the historic practice of the Israeli government.
The announcement comes as a shock to the families of the captive soldiers, who were under the impression their sons would be home this week. According to Miki Goldwasser, mother of Ehud,
“I ask what happened now that they remembered two years after the abduction to make such a move…Why now? Why when the deal is closed and it is the best possible deal?”
The reported deal to exchange Samir Kuntar for the Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was overwhelmingly supported in the Knesset and specifically, the cabinet. The deal also received support from the Israeli public, and most importantly, was supported by the families of the captive soldiers.
Ehud’s wife, Karnit, said:
“We are at the end of a very difficult day in the Knesset, on the verge of humiliating…At the end of the day I get a call that the file has been transferred to the chief military rabbi. I don’t have time to notify the family before I hear it on the news. I am furious. This is a terrible and shameful day for the state of Israel,”
According to the report, she added that the family has been reduced to begging the ministers to agree to a prisoner swap.
It seems that the Olmert administration picked up on the demand to release Palestinian soldiers as an excuse to get out of the deal. It seems that they had come so far in the negotiation to release Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. It seemed like it had been successful and the soldiers would be freed. And now they’re dead?
What goes through the mind of Prime Minister who has almost no support from his people, who denies the will of his electorate, who denies the will of his cabinet, who denies the will of his parliament, who denies the will of the families who urge him to free Samir Kuntar to free their sons?
How is it that this man is even still in office? Is this a sign that Israeli democracy has matured to the point that bi-annual elections are a thing of the past? Or, perhaps, this is a sign that Israeli apathy has hit an all-time high, and a nation that once held the threat of toppling governments in a day now bears the corruption and dysfunction.
According to the report linked above, the deal received widespread support from the government and the public, only the PMO and the defense establishment do not support the deal. Is this an example of when the army and government “know more than the people”? Or is this another example of how the IDF and the PMO are completely out of touch with the perspectives and will of the Israeli public.
I, for one, am a bit dismayed and a lot surprised.