If Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah indeed possesses the credibility and honesty that many observers around here attributed to him in the past, he should get up and admit that yet again he erred in assessing the Israeli response to his moves.
Nasrallah’s first mistake was his failure to predict the strength of the Israeli response to the abduction of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev: Eventually, he admitted that he did not believe that Israel would embark on a war because of that.
Nasrallah was also wrong to think that he would be able to exact a heavy price from Israel in the shape of the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel in exchange for information regarding the condition of the abducted soldiers.
Ofer Dekel, the prime minister’s representative in the indirect negotiations with Hizbullah, responded with an absolute no: Israel would not be paying any price for such information.
When the contacts did not progress at all, Nasrallah attempted to make despicable use of “the body parts of IDF troops that are held by us” as a bargaining chip. Bereaved parents responded to this statement with contempt and disgust and said that Nasrallah can hold on to those body parts. The Israeli response attested to strength, rather than weakness. Nasrallah was surprised yet again.
The German mediator appointed by the United Nations secretary general to manage the contacts between Israel and Hizbullah is acceptable to both sides, and has thoroughly relayed the positions of the two parties to their destination.
As reported by German weekly Der Spiegel, Israeli officials have decided to declare the two abducted soldiers dead. Even if Israel makes this declaration, as Der Spiegel claims, as long as there is no tangible evidence that the two are no longer alive, we can assume that they will not be defined as soldiers who fell in battle. In terms of Jewish law, the families would not be able to sit shiva and Karnit, Ehud Goldwasser’s wife, would still be considered a married woman.
However, a declaration that the two reservist soldiers are dead, as reported by Der Spiegel, would leave Nasrallah without any meaningful levers in the cruel negotiations he has been engaged in with Israel.
Israel would not be willing to pay the price that Nasrallah badly needs at this time, in the wake of Imad Mugniyah’s assassination – that is, the release of Samir Kuntar, who murdered the Haran family and is the most senior Lebanese prisoner jailed in Israel.
Therefore, at least at this phase of the negotiations, Hizbullah’s secretary general is the one sweating.