Iran, Europe Are Part of Hizballah’s POW Sting Operation

The Israeli-Hizballah POW-abductees-DIA deal going into effect Thursday is even more lopsided than first reported, as discovered by debkafile‘s intelligence sources from unpublished elements of the accord. Tuesday, January 27, the Israeli government published the lists of prisoners to be released two days hence for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped three years ago by the Hizballah on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border and businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum.
It includes 371 Palestinian prisoners and 60 detainees, 30 Lebanese and Arabs, and 1 German plus 59 bodies. Extra Palestinians were listed to top the figure up to 400 in case appeals to Israel’s Supreme Court in the next 48 hours block some of the releases.
However Part One of the deal is dwarfed by Part Two, according to the fresh revelations obtained exclusively by debkafile‘s sources. They also demystify some puzzling remarks dropped in the last three days: Saturday, January 24, the German mediator, Ernest Uhrlau, thanked Iran for its contribution (!); 24 hours later, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, reversing a long-held claim, announced that the missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad was not in Iran but Lebanon.
Our sources have discovered that not only Germany, but France, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece and the Netherlands are “contributing” to the victory parade the Hizballah chief is stage-managing in Lebanon to celebrate the successful outcome of the deal. These European countries are preparing to release Iranian, pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian Lebanese, Hizballah and other prisoners under sentence for assorted terror-linked crimes dating from the 1980s, mostly against American and Israeli targets.
However, in a second round of releases, Israel will pay up too by setting free thousands of Palestinians, including men convicted or detained for murdering Israelis, on top of the 400 going to their West Bank and Gaza Strip homes Thursday.
Israel’s reward will be information attesting to the fate of its missing airman.
Over a TV talk show Monday night, two former Shin Beit directors, Shabtai Shavit and Yaacov Peri, spoke persuasively about the need to pull back from Part Two of the deal before it gets out of hand. They questioned prime minister Ariel Sharon’s claim that the transaction was moral when even the German mediator has not been told whether the information on offer proves the navigator is alive or dead. Like a majority of Israelis, his family is against handing over terrorist killers for his remains, certain that they will soon return to their old ways and gained a further incentive to continue kidnapping Israelis.
It has gradually dawned on informed Israeli circles that Part Two is the outcome of the German mediator actively assisting Iran and the Hizballah chief to use the POW deal for a sting operation against Israel. He has struck a secret side deal with Tehran to open a great many European prison gates to Iranian, pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian, Lebanese and possibly Palestinians convicted of terrorism. Israel has been drawn over its head into the arrangement by the lure of unspecified information about a serviceman who fell captive 18 years ago. Part One of the POW deal therefore may now be labeled “the small transaction” because Part Two is ballooning out of hand from a single name, that of the Druse Nahariya killer, Samir Kuntar.
The fallout is already palpable:
1. The Hizballah chief has begun boasting about how he sprang more Palestinian prisoners from Israeli confinement than all the Palestinian leaders, from Yasser Arafat to Abu Mazen, and Arab rulers rolled together. He is therefore claiming the adulation of the Palestinian and Arab masses and the right to force international diplomats to reckon with him as a strong regional voice in any future Middle East steps and decisions. For the Europeans, a new and forceful representative of the Palestinian people takes the place of the discredited Arafat.
2. Sharon and his defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who refused to negotiate with Arafat but agreed to engage Nasrallah, will find it hard to continue dismissing him as a mere terrorist chief.
3. The Europeans have nailed two birds with a single shot: First, Israeli concessions have enabled them to extend their protection to the Hizballah and its chief in case the United States takes action against a group listed officially in Washington as a terrorist organization. Second, for the same price, Europe has built itself a new bridge to Tehran, whose hard line leaders will be grateful to find relief from much of the international pressure weighing on their sophisticated weapons, including nuclear programs.
debkafile‘s sources with access to the text of the Israel-Hizballah agreement mediated by Germany were surprised by the gaps. There is no provision for either contingency of Arad being discovered alive – however unlikely, or being proven dead. In both cases, Israel is committed to freeing thousands of Palestinians. One source said: “Had there been any chance of recovering Arad alive, the price might have had a modicum of logic. But if Hizballah and Iran come up with proof that he is dead, Israel is trapped in a blind commitment and can hardly turn round and say we are reneging on the deal because you murdered our airman.”
In the interests of morality as well as avoiding the Hizballah-German-Iranian trap, Sharon and Mofaz would have done better to heed the last wish of Batya Arad, the aviator’s mother, who said on her deathbed: “If my son is dead, not a single terrorist should be given away for his body.”
Interestingly no comment has come from Washington on the European ramifications of the POW swap even though notorious murderers of Americans may go free. debkafile‘s Washington sources note that last week Sharon said Israel was wiling to iron out of the security barrier separating the West Bank and Israel the enclaves winding round the Jordan Valley, Ariel, Beit Arieh and Gush Etzion. In a conversation with the Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer Monday, January 26, he said he was considering re-routing the fence, whose construction has slowed down in the last week. Mofaz has meanwhile set up a special defense ministry team to take care of Palestinian humanitarian needs.
When these developments are added to the prospect of thousands of Palestinians being turned loose from Israeli prison in the coming weeks, including convicted murderers, the Israeli government looks as though it is in the midst of a sweeping policy change as regards the Palestinians. This departure, which coincides with the arrival of John Wolf, a senior state department official, may be Sharon’s way of meeting the Bush administration halfway in its demands with regard to the barrier and the need to address the human problems of the Palestinian people.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email