November 17, 2003

Meddlesome Germans

Well, back to the old pattern. Germans meddling, ineffectively at best, plainly hostile at worst, with Israeli affairs, Arabs asking everything whereas offering nothing.

Has there ever been an outcry about Ron Arad, by the way? Has the fact that he was crippled to prevent him from escaping ever hit the headlines -- or at least the media -- here?
Hezbollah Leader Meets With German Envoy
Mon Nov 17, 5:35 AM ET

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah's leader said Monday he met with a German envoy mediating a prisoner swap between the Lebanese militant group and Israel, but disclosed nothing about negotiations described as at a "delicate stage."

A statement issued by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah and the German mediator met "in an attempt to find the required resolution to outstanding points." The statement did not say when the meeting was held, but it was apparently in the last few days.

"The two sides agreed that the negotiations remain secret at this delicate stage in order to create better conditions to reach a positive and final result," said the brief statement, which was faxed by Hezbollah to The Associated Press in Beirut.

News of an imminent deal emerged in recent weeks.

Last Thursday, Nasrallah pledged to bring home all 16 Lebanese prisoners held by Israel and said he expected to hear from a German mediator in the next three days on the proposed swap of prisoners and bodies with the Jewish state.

Eight days ago, Israel's Cabinet narrowly approved a prisoner swap with Hezbollah. Under the deal outlined by the Cabinet, the militants would release Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers, all captured by Hezbollah in October 2000, in exchange for about 400 Palestinians and several dozen prisoners from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Sudan and Libya.

Last Saturday, Nasrallah said the deal would not go through unless Lebanese prisoner Samir Kantar was among those freed. Israeli officials have said Kantar, 41, has "blood on his hands" and would not be included in the swap.

Kantar, who was a member of a Palestinian guerrilla group when he embarked on the raid in Israel, is the longest-held Lebanese prisoner and is serving a 542-year sentence.

Nasrallah's statement Monday, however, did not specify Kantar or any other pending points.

Israel captured most of its Lebanese prisoners during its invasions and occupation of Lebanese territory. Israel has in the past released thousands of Arabs for several Israelis.

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