While a shaky Middle East cease-fire continues to survive despite occasional breaches by the Israeli defense forces, recent media reports suggest that a deal between Israel and Hezbollah, involving a prisoner swap, is under way. An Egyptian daily even went as far as to say that the exchange could take place within two to three weeks.
In 2004, a deal brokered by Germany:
"saw the return of the bodies of three IDF soldiers who were kidnapped in October 2000 and of Israeli businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum. In return, Israel released some 430 Arab prisoners, most of them Palestinians, as well as the bodies of 60 Lebanese soldiers. The deal also includes the release of German prisoner Stephan Smyrek, accused of planning attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Bonn."
In 1996, Israel freed 45 Shiite Muslims and returned more than 100 Hezbollah bodies in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers.
Since 1948, Israel has negotiated dozens of similar deals with the Arab groups, and this time will be no different from the previous ones--regardless of whether Israel and Lebanon have already reached an agreement or are still hammering out the exact details, a deal of some form that would enable the return of the captured Israeli soldiers in exchange for a number of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails, looks inevitable.
Ironically, Israel is now holding talks for a prisoner swap after presiding over 34 days of carnage and cluster bombs--a proposal it flatly rejected when Hezbollah released a statement making clear its intention for a prisoner exchange shortly after the kidnapping of two soldiers on the fateful morning of July 12.
The obvious question is, why did Israel refuse to negotiate before, and instead launched a ferocious retaliatory attack effectively turning back the clock of Lebanon 20 years?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the ruins of Lebanon--the bloody message of hegemony: you live with Hezbollah, we leave you in your graves; you bite a finger, we will chop your limbs off. Period.
From Israel's point of view, the option of negotiation was always there, it's never off the table. However, in Hezbollah's act they saw an excellent opportunity to execute what they had in mind for quite some time. All they needed, was an excuse, no matter how feeble.