Israel: January 24, 2004


After months of negotiations, conducted through a German facilitator, Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbollah have agreed to a prisoner trade. Israel will free 35 Arabs , most of whom are Lebanese, and 400 Palestinians. Israel will also return the bodies of 53 Lebanese killed while fighting Israelis during  Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. In return, Hizbollah  will release Elhanan Tannenbaum, an Israeli businessman it kidnapped in 2000, as well as the  bodies of three Israeli soldiers they captured in 2000. None of the Arabs being released are known to have killed Israelis. This point caused the negotiations to drag on for so long. Israel gave Hizbollah the bodies of two of its slain fighters last year to get the negotiations going. The lopsided nature of the exchange is typical of such prisoner exchanges going back to 1948 and the first Arab-Israeli war. 

After this exchange,  Israel will provide information on five Iranian diplomats who disappeared in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Hizbollah was founded by Iranian clerics and Islamic radicals, and still receives cash and weapons from Iran. In return, Hizbollah will provide information on Ron Arad, an airman who  was captured when his plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986. This second round of negotiations may also lead to the release of more Palestinian prisoners. 




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