Israeli critics question lopsided prisoner swap
(ROSH HANIKRA, Israel) Critics of Israel's lopsided prisoner exchange with Lebanese guerrillas said Wednesday that such deals only encourage more hostage-taking — a fear underscored by Gaza militants who said the swap proves that kidnapping is the only language Israel understands.
The deal, in which a notorious Lebanese attacker, four other militants and the bodies of 199 Arab fighters were traded for two dead Israeli soldiers, closed a painful chapter from Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon.
But it also raised questions about whether Israel should reconsider its policy of bringing back every soldier from the battlefield at just about any cost.
Israel has been carrying out unequal prisoner swaps for decades, including handing over 4,600 Palestinian and Lebanese captives in 1983 in exchange for six captured Israeli soldiers. In the past it's even traded live prisoners for bodies, as it did Wednesday.
The rationale for such trades was a wartime ethic seen as essential in Israel's early days to instilling loyalty and commitment from its troops.
In today's world of asymmetric warfare — with militant groups increasingly focused on kidnapping as a way to pressure Israel and with the fight against terrorism now a worldwide challenge — the lopsided swaps could have graver consequences than in the past.