Although a ceasefire is in force, the current campaign is not yet over. Thousands of IDF soldiers are still in southern Lebanon, quietly cleansing the area while waiting for the international force to arrive.
The Israeli navy is maintaining the sea blockade on the shores of Lebanon, and this is really exasperating the Lebanese people. This is the only thing that truly bothers them, testimony of this is their call on the entire international community to help lift it.
Britain's prime minister, Germany's chancellor, France's president and the US Secretary of State are also trying to use their influence to lift the blockade, which indicates that we have our finger on their pulse.
Officially, Israel is saying that the blockade will only be lifted once it is replaced by an embargo preventing supply of missiles and other arms to the Iranian-Shiite organization, who until recently ruled Lebanon.
The Lebanese government's argument, that it will prevent the transfer of arms throughout its borders, still requires concrete proof, and cannot be relied upon as long as it continues to praise the "resistance's victory." However there is another important matter – the two abducted soldiers.
Don't believe in clandestine diplomacy
The sea blockade is also aimed at preventing the soldiers from being taken out of Lebanon by sea as well as ensuring their release. We haven't heard anything to this effect, namely that only the release of the soldiers (while maintaining the embargo) will enable Israel to lift the sea blockade. Perhaps this was said behind closed doors, but I don't believe in clandestine diplomacy.
This has never produced anything positive, just look at the secret agreements reached with the help of European mediation – the Olso Accords and all the ensuing tragedies that were forced on Yitzhak Rabin because of such clandestine diplomacy.
Even the Elhanan Tenenbaum deal and other shady prisoner exchanges were formulated in this manner. The Egyptians and Hizbullah are reporting that such a deal is currently in the making, and common sense says that this is probably the case.
Strengthening evil Sheik's power
Any clandestine deal strengthens the evil Sheik's power, and this could ruin the little we achieved in this war – Israel against Lebanon as a state and not against the Iranian-Shiite organization. This change can prove to be a highly significant achievement as long as we remain consistent and determined.
It is crucial, therefore that we demand that the abducted soldiers be transferred to the Lebanese government and that only Lebanon as a sovereign state will have the right to negotiate for their release.
This should be carried out alongside the lifting of the sea blockade. In other words: The sea blockade of the Lebanese coastline will not be lifted unless the two abducted soldiers are transferred to the Lebanese government and the international sea embargo is imposed.
The prime minister can argue his case for accepting the ceasefire, although he will only be able to convince a small part of the population. However, he cannot stand up against the captives' parents and the public and argue the case of lifting the sea blockade without at least transferring the soldiers to the Lebanese government.
Foreign agent on behalf of Syria and Iran
The only thing that's really pressuring the Sheikh is the increasing accusations in Lebanon that he is acting as a foreign agent on behalf of Syria and Iran (which of course is true).
Therefore, Nasrallah will find it very difficult to refuse specific demands made by Beirut's government. Beirut, on its part, is not too eager to enter into a conflict with the Shiite organization and will only do so if it has no choice.
Perhaps it will do so if UN Secretary General, heads of European states and the US Secretary of State make it quite clear to the Lebanese government that there is no other way to lift the Israeli imposed sea blockade – and they on their part will do so if the Israeli government will abide by a sharp and hardened stance.
The Israeli government will demand this if the public demands it, however the Israeli public is too busy complaining and looking for the guilty. Instead of protesting against "those guilty of the failures," perhaps we should all protest in favor of victory: The sea embargo will not be lifted without the return of our two abducted soldiers, Ehud and Eldad!
One in exchange for another
And there's another important matter. In the Middle East and particularly in the Muslim world, a man's honor is more important than his freedom. We in Israel should protect a man's freedom along with his honor.
The prime mister's call for the unconditional release of the captives leads to a situation whereby the various mediators create the basis for a phased exchange deal – beginning with the release of our soldiers followed by the release of Lebanese prisoners (or Palestinian prisoners in Gilad Shalit's case). I propose another model, which I have already proposed in the past): Exchanging one for one.
The release of many prisoners in exchange for one is showing disrespect for human life. A man's honor and freedom obliges us to exchange one prisoner for another. Ours and theirs. Not two in exchange for one, not ten, nor one hundred or a thousand.
In time, if we decide to release prisoners in an overall prisoner exchange deal, or within a Hudna framework, or anything else - that's fine. However, when the prisoners are released we must break our past precedence that has led us to such tragedies, and to revert to the model of man's honor and freedom – one on one.
This is also likely to significantly minimize the temptation to further abduct soldiers in the future.