September 14, 2006
Signs of life
I sat across a conference table at the Israeli consulate from KarnitGoldwasser, and she was livid
(Page 3 - Previous Page)
Some 8,800 Palestinian prisoners are in Israeli jails, according to Israel Prison Service statistics. Ninety-six of the prisoners are women and 274 are under 18 years of age. About 70 percent of the convicts were labeled as "having blood on their hands," and between 500 and 2,000 have neither been charged nor tried.
In 2004, Israel swapped 435 prisoners in return for kidnapped Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the return of the bodies of three soldiers killed during an ambush along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Among the released were two pro-Hezbollah agents whom Israel abducted within Lebanon to use as bargaining chips in the effort to secure the release of Arad.
"If Israel will negotiate, why not frankly say so and conduct negotiations quickly and with flexibility," wrote Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz. "And if [terrorist] Samir Kuntar had been released from prison in an earlier deal, after 27 years in an Israeli prison, maybe Hezbollah would not have kidnapped Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. These questions must be answered honestly and courageously, instead of with bravado and bragging."
Others say every uneven exchange increases the likelihood of more kidnappings. Israeli leaders need to balance the deep-seated IDF ethos that "no soldier is abandoned on the battlefield," with a dry-eyed security calculus. Call me overly empathetic, but listening to Karnit, it's hard to imagine a prime minister who can say, in your case, no negotiations.
In the middle of the debate stands the family of the captured, in the middle of the battle stands Karnit. For her, neither the strategy nor the goal are complicated.
"I really want them to do a negotiation because then I will know my husband's condition," she said. "I'm not a politician. I'm just his wife. And like any wife, I want my husband. And I am going to do anything to bring him back. I am going pay any price to bring him back. Anyone in my situation would do the same. Because he is my soul mate."