Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A Fair Exchange ?

The bodies of two Israeli soldiers have been handed to the Red Cross by Hezbollah. This is to be in exchange for Lebanese prisoners who have been held by Israel and the “deal” is being seen as a triumph by the Lebanese Shi'ite group.
Before the exchange, it was not clear whether the two soldiers were alive or not but the two plain black coffins delivered to the border told the soldiers' family what they had long feared. Earlier, five Lebanese prisoners were handed over at the Lebanese/Israeli border. These included Samir Qantar a Druze, who has been in prison in Israel for almost thirty years following a guerrilla raid which killed three Israelis, including a child. They are said by Hezbollah to be the last Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails.

Some Israelis see today’s events as an unfortunate but necessary act, others see it as a sorry state of affairs when an “agreement” such as this is made. The Israeli soldiers' capture caused war with Hezbollah, 2 years ago, that lasted for 34 days and killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 Israelis.
The bodies of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters killed, are also to be transferred to Lebanon as part of the exchange and Hezbollah will return the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the south of Lebanon.
It has been said that this agreement will put and end to a situation that has motivated many Hezbollah attempts to capture Israelis to use as bargaining tools.
Will this be the case?

With Hezbollah flags flying across south Lebanon and on the road to Beirut, banners stating "Liberation of the captives: a new dawn for Lebanon and Palestine," make for uneasy reading with some Lebanese feeling that the exchange only shows the pointlessness of the conflict which caused so many lives to be lost only two years ago.
With Israelis confused at the declaration of a national holiday in Lebanon to mark the “deal” and the Lebanese claiming justice to be done, the celebrations seem to me to be hollow. Dead bodies swapped for live prisoners. Body parts exchanged for convicted murders. At least two generations fighting a battle that has long ago lost it’s sense of purpose and direction, with thousands of Palestinian refugees, and countless lives destroyed.

It hardly feels like peace has come.