Analyst: Israel-Hezbollah Prisoner Swap A Mistake

Posters of two Israeli soliders captured by Hezbollah

Posters of the two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev (right) and Ehud Goldwasser, captured by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israel's agreement to swap five Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli army soldiers is likely to cause major problems for Israel in the future, says Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

On Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet voted 22-3 to trade five prisoners, including Samir Kantar, convicted of a brutal 1979 attack, for the bodies of Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose capture by Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon in 2006 set off a monthlong war.

Israel has often insisted that it would not release prisoners who it believes were directly involved in deadly attacks, but at the same time, it has also traded those prisoners for captured Israelis.

Oren says that Israel's swap, which should take place sometime over the next two weeks, have a devastating future impact. "Not just Hamas ... the entire region — whether it be Iran, Syria — are going to look at this deal and conclude that Israel has not shown a tremendous amount of backbone," he says.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar has already said in a radio interview that Hamas will work "to release people Israel accused of having blood on their hands, like Samir Kantar. We have to take advantage of this to release our prisoners."

Hamas is holding another Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, who was captured two years ago in Gaza. Unlike the two soldiers for whom Israel is trading Kantar, Schalit is believed to be alive.

But Oren, an Israeli veteran himself, believes that the current swap will threaten the lives of Israeli prisoners in the future. "It's also reducing the incentive to terrorists to keep Israeli prisoners alive if Israel is willing to give up live terrorists for dead Israeli soldiers — what's the message?" he asks.

"In fact, Israel, by releasing convicted terrorists, is incentivizing future terrorists to conduct future raids against Israel," he says.

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