The Cost of the Israel-Hezbollah Swap

July 28, 2008 Updated: July 29, 2008

The reactions to the recent Israel-Hezbollah swap in the Arab world varies from indifference to bragging and showing off, with terrorist organizations even celebrating with armed maneuver using live gunfire.

The swap seems to have invigorated the terrorist organizations in the area. Hamas sources have stressed their further demands to set free more terrorists who have committed terrorist acts in future swaps. They said that the release of Kuntar, a Palestinian who killed four people, including a 4-year-old girl, in a terrorist attack proves that Israel is willing to submit to their demands. The president of the Palestinian Authority hurried to send its greetings to Nasralla, head of Hezbollah. Ismail Hannya, the head of Hamas government in Gaza strip, described the swap as a victory for the resistance against Israel.

After the swap, Hezbollah celebrated in the streets of Beirut showing off its power. The Islamic Jihad organization even conducted a live ammunition maneuver in Gaza.

Professor Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University thinks that Hezbollah's benefit from this swap is only in terms of propaganda. "There was a tactical achievement that has not changed the things essentially or significantly," he said. "Hezbollah hasn't recovered from its defeat in 2006, and it is not interested in renewing the combats along the border."

In the Arab world the reaction to the swap varied. In Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia the swap was not widely covered, and Hezbollah was not praised. Yet in the Palestinian authority, Syria, and on Al Jazeera television, the swap was accepted as a Hezbollah’s achievement opposite to the weakness of Israel.

The celebrations in Lebanon for the release of Kuntar and the other Palestinian prisoners have brought the Lebanese Prime Minister closer to Hezbollah. Surprisingly even Walid Junblat, the Druze leader who is known to be objector of Nasrallah, appears to be moving closer to Hezbollah.

Dr. Eli Karmon from the Interdiciplinary Center in Herzlia, Israel said that “the fact that the whole Lebanese leadership, including the opposition, Priminster Siniora and the Druze Leader came to the celebrations and turned Kuntar into a Lebanese hero, suggests that Hezbolla’s status had grown strong.” He said, “Hezbolla sees itself not only as the liberator of Lebanon, but as the leader of the combat to destroy Israel and liberate Jerusalem.”

Karmon stresses that the swap has strengthened Nasrallah personally in the Arab and the Palestinian world. Just recently Nasrallah sent a letter to the UN Secratery General in which he offers his help in finding missing Israelis in Lebanon. He stipulated his help in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners.

Dr. Karmon believes that the feeling of contentment might affect the negotiations about the release of Gilad Shalit, another Israeli soldier whose condition is unknown.

The Israeli media, however, has expressed shock and disappointment regarding the cynical attitude of the Hezbolla in the swap. Hezbolla led the Israeli government and the two families believe to the last monent that the Israeli soldiers Regev and Goldwasser are alive.