Israel Seeks Two-stage Prisoner Exchange Deal With Hezbollah

Israel is interested in a two-stage prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah, the United Nation's Mideast envoy Michael Williams has said in the past few days. He added the organization has so far declined the offer.

According to Williams, who revealed the information in several public events over the past week, Jerusalem is willing to release a certain number of prisoners in the first stage of the deal, in exchange for information and a sign of life from Eldad Regev and Ehud Golwasser, the two Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted by Hezbollah last year.

The second stage Israel is proposing would see the release of more Hezbollah prisoners in Israel. In exchange, Israel is demanding Hezbollah return the two IDF soldiers.

However, Williams informed his listeners during talks on the subject that Hezbollah has refused the offer, insisting instead on a single exchange of all prisoners. Israel had up until this point refused going through with such a deal until it receives information on whether the soldiers are still alive.

Williams went on to reveal that UN mediators have so far met at 20 different occasions to negotiate the prisoner exchange. According to the UN envoy, the mediators are now focusing on negotiating a one-stage deal that could meet the requirements of both parties.

Government sources in Jerusalem told Haaretz that Williams' mission is not restricted to the prisoner issue, and includes many other components. They said this suggests that he may not be completely well-versed in all the fine details of the negotiations.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has previously told the German chief negotiator on the prisoner issue that any media leaks on the ongoing talks would impede and stall negotiations.