Prisoner Exchange / The Terms of the Deals Are Known

The release of the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah is not a binding part of Security Council Resolution 1701. The document makes do with stressing the sensitivity of the matter and encouraging its quick resolution.

Therefore, the details of a prisoner exchange must still be worked out. It is not even clear yet who the mediator will be, nor is it clear whether German representative Ernst Urlau will decide to negotiate with the Lebanese government or Hezbollah.

Nevertheless, the basic conditions of any exchange seem obvious: Samir Kuntar and the other Lebanese prisoners for the two soldiers kidnapped on July 12. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delineated this framework as far back as the first few days of the war and authorized the Lebanese government to handle the negotiations. For now, however, it appears that the government of Lebanon is not interested in being an intermediary.

At this stage, both Israel and Nasrallah have a great interest in carrying out an exchange. Moreover, unlike during the early days of the war, it will now be difficult for Nasrallah to present "non-Lebanese" conditions for an exchange: He has been trying to present the war as a Lebanese affair, with no connection to Iran or the Palestinians, due to public pressure in Lebanon that also resulted in an interview in which he expressed "regret." Nasrallah is also keen to show at least one tangible gain from the war, in the form of released Lebanese prisoners.

But Lebanese pressure is not the only reason for this about-face: The Palestinians are also not interested in a joint deal. Following two months of talks involving Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Palestinians feel hat they can achieve better results without Hezbollah. In this case, too, the terms are known: 600 to 1,000 prisoners, mostly women and children, but also veteran prisoners, in return for Gilad Shalit.

Egypt offered to guarantee that Israel fulfills its part of the bargain, but the Palestinians are still suspicious of Israel's good faith. There are also some who believe that it would be best to wait until a national unity government is set up, thereby allowing the new government to take credit for the prisoners' return. Moreover, while Hamas in Gaza is willing to deal immediately, neither Khaled Meshal in Damascus nor the specific groups that carried out the abduction, and which seek the credit for themselves, have yet given their final approval.