PA sources: Status of kidnapped soldiers delaying prisoner swap
Israeli coordinator says 'Olmert's biggest crime is in not bringing the kidnapped soldiers home.'
The question of Israel's kidnapped soldiers missing in Lebanon is the obstacle delaying a prisoner swap, Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Monday. They also said that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser are alive.
"Israel is trying to put psychological pressure on Hezbollah through its statements, with the aim of finding out about the status of the abductees. A deal for two living soldiers is completely different in terms of extent than a deal for two soldiers who have been killed," a Palestinian source said Monday.
The families of both Regev and Goldwasser declined to comment on the report, published in Haaretz on Monday that Israel refused to exchange Palestinian prisoners for them. Shlomo Goldwasser, Ehud's father, said he could not comment, while Eyal Regev, Eldad's brother, said he had no response. Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud's wife, said the report did not surprise her. "I know that when there is something to inform me about, I am informed," she added.
Miki Leibowitz, who is coordinating the public campaign for the kidnapped soldiers, said that, "Despite the current investigations of the prime minister for various crimes, it is completely obvious that Olmert's biggest crime is in not bringing the kidnapped soldiers home."
Leibowitz called on the prime minister to "stop dealing with media spins and act to bring home the boys with the same intensity he is working on his personal matters."
The Palestinian sources confirmed Monday's report in Haaretz that Israel has expressed a willingness to release only Lebanese prisoners for the two soldiers.
The sources also said that the Jordanian prisoners committee was handling contacts with Hezbollah. Until recently it had been clear to those involved in the talks that Hezbollah would obtain the release of about 30 Jordanian prisoners still in Israeli jails, as well as some Druze prisoners from the Golan Heights whom Hezbollah regards as Syrian. In the previous prisoner swap, of early 2004, Israel refused to release either the Jordanians or the Druze.
Assessments indicated that the parties were close to reaching an agreement and that if Israeli Arab security prisoners were released, they would willingly go to live in Jordan for five years. Apparently only two Israeli Arab prisoners, convicted of murdering an Israeli soldier, have been named in this context.
Before the last prisoner deal, Hezbollah asked the Arab League to make inquiries in the Arab countries as to whether they wanted Hezbollah to negotiate for the release of their nationals serving time in Israeli jails. Jordan responded that it was not interested and would solve the matter directly with Israel.
The political crisis and violence in Lebanon has meant that Hezbollah is busy with matters related to the new state of affairs and is not intensively working on a swap, the Palestinian sources said.