By Nabil Al Mulhem
Albawaba.com – Damascus
The German mediation between Hizbollah and Israel concerning a prisoners’ exchange deal has reached a dead-end due to an intransigent position on the part of the Israeli caretaker Premier, Ehud Barak, according to sources close to the Lebanese Islamic movement which captured last October three Israeli soldiers from the occupied Shabaa Farms.
Later in the month, Hizbollah announced that it took captive a Mossad agent, reserve colonel Elhanan Tenenbaum.
The sources said that Barak has refused to meet Hizbollah’s conditions, namely, the release of all the Lebanese, Palestinian and Arab prisoners, in addition to revealing the destiny of Iranian diplomats missing in Lebanon since 1982.
In the sources’ analysis, Barak’s rejection is based on internal political calculations related to the election campaign. They said that “Barak is trying to avoid new defeats at the hands of the Islamic fundamental movement,” referring to the dilemma that the Israeli leader would face himself if he offers compromises. They added that Barak’s rival, Likud leader Ariel Sharon will take the opportunity to launch a fierce attack on his competitor.
The same sources quoted Hizbollah officials as saying the party “is not concerned with the Israeli internal politics, and the deal must be done in isolation from the Israeli political equation.”
The sources confirmed reports that new parties have indulged in the mediation, including Austria whose defense minister Herbert Schroeder has met with Israeli deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh. They said that France has also interfered in the issue, counting on the respect held for its president Jacque Chirac by Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon and the regional power backing Hizbollah.
However, the sources said that Israel does not appear to be as serious about the deal as the European mediators, and attributed that to the possibility of a regional war foreseen due to the deteriorating peace efforts and the Israeli worries regarding the Syrian armament and the Iranian-Syrian cooperation.
The German mediators left for Bonn after it was clear that Hizbollah was firm about its conditions for a prisoners’ exchange.
There are 16 Lebanese, and 1600 Palestinians held by the Israeli authorities, in addition to a number of Arabs, a number of whom were soldiers who carried out operations against Israel while patrolling the borders with Israel.
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