ANALYSIS / Hezbollah Using Swap Deal as Quick Fix for Problems at Home

Nasrallah seized the chance to move spotlight from Lebanon's political paralysis to prisoner swap.

Why was Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah so anxious Wednesday to report the signing of the prisoner exchange? And why doesn't he provide details on the abducted Israeli soldiers?

Nasrallah's distrust in the Israeli government, even after the cabinet approved the deal, apparently lies behind his insistence on staying mum. But announcing a done deal makes Israel responsible for any deviation.

The timing of Nasrallah's announcement is related to the harsh criticism being voiced by his political rivals at home. "Isn't signing this agreement tantamount to indirect negotiations with Israel?" former president Amin Gemayel goaded Nasrallah. So the Hezbollah chief saw an opportunity to show his organization in a positive light against the background of efforts to forge a national unity government and the justified argument that he is responsible for the Lebanon's political paralysis. It's hard to say anything bad about the man who frees prisoners.

Nasrallah Wednesday termed the agreement a "new victory" for all Lebanese and even offered to open a political dialogue with his rivals. Characterizing the agreement as an Arab and Muslim victory was aimed at his rivals in the Arab and Muslim world. Uncharacteristically, he detailed the release of the Palestinian and Arab prisoners and Israel's opposition. "The release of Palestinian and Arab prisoners was a principle we worked on in the negotiations," he said, adding that it was agreed that he would send a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations asking for his help in releasing them. The implication is that Israel will release Palestinian and Arab prisoners without specifying names and the exact number - as a gesture to the UN head. And then Nasrallah can take credit.

Some argue that as the chapter of the Lebanese prisoners comes to an end, and in view of the Lebanese government's demand to transfer the disputed Shaba Farms to UN control, Nasrallah is likely to lose his pretext for armed struggle - and that could lead to demands for Hezbollah's disarmament. He took care of that Wednesday. After the full liberation of Lebanon (including Israel's withdrawal from Shaba Farms), Nasrallah said he will have to use arms to defend Lebanon from future aggression. Thus, Nasrallah declared that the Lebanese Army is not capable of getting the job done, and that Lebanon's real military force vis-a-vis Israel is Hezbollah.