FLASH : On Dec. 7, 2004, the "Born to Freedom Foundation"
has launched a $10 million
campaign to obtain information on missing Israeli soldier Ron Arad, who was
excluded from the prisoner exchange deal with Hizbollah. CNN, BBC and Eurosport,
however, have refused to air a fully-paid ad by the "Born to Freedom Foundation"
on the release of Arad, saying that it was political in nature.
2003: A controversial Hizbollah-Israel Prisoner Exchange raised many questions
Deal Gone Bad
Have Abandoned My Father, read the big headline on the front page of Tel
Aviv's centrist Yediot Aharonot (Nov. 7, 2003). Under it, the paper reprinted
a letter by Ron Arad's daughter, Yuval, 19, to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Ron
Arad is the Israeli air force navigator shot down in 1986 in southern Lebanon
and captured by Lebanese guerillas. He is believed to be a prisoner in Iran.
accusation summed up the somber mood in Israel after the Sharon cabinet's Nov.
9 2003 approval, by a narrow 12-11 margin, of a prisoner exchange with Lebanon's
Hizbollah. The agreement, however, was put on hold until its final adoption in
Hizballah, Israel has proven that it mainly understands the language of force,"
writes Tel Aviv's centrist Yediot Acharonot (Jan. 25, 2004). "The
Hizballah leadership can rest on its laurels; in negotiations with Israel, it
seems that kidnapping and murder are effective methods of blackmail." While
the editors aver that "the exchange deal with Hizballah is, therefore, bad
and flawed," they add, "Nevertheless, it had to be carried out,"
because it "is an outstanding 'no alternative' deal." The paper believes
that "Israel, as a democratic country, is not entitled to abandon the citizen
Tannenbaum to the mercies of Hizballah murderers and cannot remain indifferent
to the pain of the families of the murdered soldiers. Refusing to implement the
exchange was never even considered; the bargaining was merely over the price,
and the price that was determined in the end is not unreasonably high."
editors continue: "[Senior Hizbollah official Sheikh Abdel Karim] Obeid and
[Lebanese guerilla fighter Mustafa] Dirani should have been returned to Lebanon
long ago, after it became clear that their abductions did not further the search
for Ron Arad, and that their being in an Israeli prison was only liable to prod
Hizballah into kidnapping Israelis as hostages (as it, in fact, did)." The
paper speculates that whatever gains Hizballah derives from the deal in the Lebanese
sphere will be short-lived due to the organization's steadily eroding image as
a liability to Lebanon's development and progress. The editors conclude: "The
exchange deal with Hizballah strengthens one of Israel's bitterest enemies in
the world and endangers its deterrent ability. Thus from a security point-of-view;
but from a moral point of-view, no Israeli government could and would make a decision
other than that which the Sharon government made; yes to the deal, with all the
reservations. Not because it is the correct deal, but because rejecting it was
out of the question."
a Painful Deal
the exchange agreement, Israel will free approximately 400 Palestinian and 20
Lebanese prisoners and repatriate the bodies of dozens of Lebanese soldiers, in
return for the remains of three Israeli soldiers and the release of kidnapped
Israeli businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum. "Those with blood on their hands
will not be released," the cabinet said in a prepared statement. According
to government ministers adopting the deal was "one of Israel's most difficult
in the deal is Israel's promise to free Dirani, the very same man who is believed
to have held Arad right after his capture and to have tortured him. By giving
up Dirani, Israel loses one of its most useful bargaining chips for information
on Arador even his release. "Imagine that Arad is in jail in Iran,
Lebanon, or somewhere else," stated Minister Uzi Landau, who opposed the
deal. "One shudders at the thought of a despicable scene where Dirani goes
to visit him in jail and tells him: 'I was released, but they forgot you.' "
felt sad, trapped in a never-ending cycle of difficult decisions forced onto them.
There had been similar deals in the past, but this one raised the issue of Ron
Arad, who was left out in the cold. The deal had been under negotiation for months,
with Germany serving as the mediator. It has divided Israel, and the majority
of Israelis believe that Arad has been abandoned for good, even left to die.
chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, however, believes that the chances
of freeing Arad would actually improve now, since the exchange puts the issue
back in the international arena. Avraham Tirosh of Tel Aviv's centrist Ma'ariv
agreed (Nov. 7, 2003): "Paradoxically, the case of Ron Arad provides the
greatest justification for implementing the prisoner exchange
. One day,
[Arad] suddenly vanished from the face of the earth
. [T]his could happen
to Tennenbaum if he is abandoned to the animals of Hizbollah."
Nov. 12, Ze'ev Shiff summed up the mood that prevailed in Israel after details
of the deal were settled upon, in Ha'aretz: "Israel fell into the
trap of Hizbollah's psychological warfare. Hizbollah taught us a lesson. It managed
to get Israelis quarreling with each other over the prisoner affair.... Handing
over Palestinian prisoners to Hizbollah once again raises the question of why
Israel couldn't have done the same for the Mahmoud Abbas government....The bottom
line is that, in the field of psychological warfare, Hizbollah beat Israel."
Dan Margalit, writing in Ma'ariv (Nov. 7), also found harsh words:
"For better or for worse, we are a nation of bleeding-heart liberal softies."
in the "Tennenbaum Dilemma"
days, the Israeli media argued over the lopsidedness of the deal, pondering why
no price for Israel was too high. Other commentators asserted that by accepting
Hizbollah's demands, Israel was demonstrating weakness and encouraged future abductions.
The deal pitted the Tennenbaum family against the Arad family, and politicians
were caught in the "Tennenbaum Dilemma": Whose grief weighs more? "The
public must immediately ask forgiveness from the prisoners' families for forcing
them to come out and publicly fight each other," demanded an editorial in
Yediot Aharonot (Nov. 10). Amir Oren, writing in Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz
(Nov. 10), put it more bluntly: "In choosing 'Tennenbaum or Arad,' Israel
must act like a combat medic who is obligated to decide which wounded man to treat
Caroline Glick, writing for the conservative English-language Jerusalem Post
(Nov. 7), strongly opposed striking any deals with terrorist organizations. "If
Israel plays ball with a group of kidnappers, then that means that kidnapping
is a good idea and should be used again and again
If [Tennenbaum's] release
costs Israel 400 terrorists, how much will Israel agree to pay to secure the release
of an Israeli family abducted while on safari in Africa, or a honeymooning couple
kidnapped while trekking through South America?
In exchange for the peace
of mind of four families
all of us will be placed in jeopardy." To that,
Ben Caspit, writing for Ma'ariv (Nov. 7) added dryly: "[Hizbollah
leader] Hassan Nasrallah surely enjoys this moment
. Suicide bombings will
become a thing of the past
. Now, thanks to Nasrallah, let's all move on
to the era of terrorism through abductions." The editors of Ha'aretz
agreed (Nov. 9): "[The deal] would cast Israel in the role of a state that
surrenders to threatening dictates."
is there always such a stark difference in what Israel is willing to give and
what Arabs agree to in return? asked Amos Gilboa in Ma'ariv (Nov. 10).
"Why is this difference so easily accepted by the world and by us as something
. Perhaps the answer to that is that, overall, we have
been defeated by the rules that terrorism has unleashed in the world." Realities
have changed. "The once universal joy at releasing our captives has been
lost," lamented Yigal Sarna in Yediot Aharonot (Nov. 7). "The
violence, anger, and rifts have torn the delicate fabric of Israeli society
Now, even this little miracle has lost its glamour. The affair has turned into
a struggle between families, ministers, hordes of lobbyists, attorneys, public
relation experts, demonstrators, and manifesto signers." Sarna continued
to attack Sharon openly, holding him personally responsible for a deal gone bad.
"The man opposed to any dialogue or negotiations with people with blood on
their hands," Sarna charged, "is the same person who has now decided
that while we won't talk to the Palestinians about our lives, we'll talk to Hizbollah
about our dead."
Betrayal and Botched Policy"
anything, the public debate over the deal has sparked renewed talk of whether
Arad is alive or not. According to a member of the government-appointed "Winograd
Committee," which reviewed intelligence information related to the fate of
Arad and presented its findings in August, "There is no conclusive evidence
to support the thesis that Arad is dead, thus it must be concluded that he is
alive." Not for long, however, charged Israel's settler outlet Arutz Sheva
(Nov. 11), quoting Eli Landau, the chairman of Israel Electronic Company and a
good friend of Ariel Sharon: "The fact that Sharon is willing to make this
exchange without including Arad in it is sure proof that he feels Arad is no longer
months later, the issue was still weighed in the Hebrew press.
in Ha'aretz summarized on April 28, 2004: "Three months have passed
since the first stage of the prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah was carried
out. Israel paid a steep price for this first phase: the release of Lebanese prisoners
who belonged to the Hezbollah terror organization, at least one of whomSheikh
Mustafa Diraniwas involved in the capture and maltreatment of missing Israel
Air Force navigator Ron Arad. Israel...thus strengthened Hezbollah's prestige
and influence as a presence in the entire region, and not just in internal Lebanon
politics.... Clearly, the non-consummation of the second phase of the deal aggravates
doubts as to why it was brokered in the first place. Three months later, with
the promised continuation nowhere in sight, the deal still stirs feelings of injustice,
betrayal, and botched policy among friends and family of Ron Aradand not
only among them."
Story of Ron Arad
Held by Hizbollah
compiled by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Principles for the Agreement to Release Israeli Prisoners and Hostages Held in
adopted by the Sharon cabinet on Nov. 9, 2003.
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