JERUSALEM (Feb. 17)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin indicated Monday that he would not “object in principle” to a prisoner exchange deal for Israeli soldiers held captive in Lebanon.
“IDF soldiers who are sent to attack the enemy should know that the State of Israel is behind them, not only in words, but also in deals — if there is no other military option,” Rabin told reporters during a visit to Ashdod.
“I cannot say that I will object in principle to (such) deal. No government in Israel has ever objected,” he said, noting that when there is no military option to release prisoners and kidnap victims, there is the option of “deals.”
Israel has made clear, however, that it will not release 400 convicted prisoners as demanded by the Islamic Jihad, an extremist group in Lebanon, for the lives of three Americans and one Indian national kidnapped in Beirut last month. There were hints that Israel might negotiate for the freedom of an Israel Air Force navigator taken prisoner by the Shiite Amal militia after his plane was shot down over Lebanon last October.
In 1985, Israel freed 1,500 prisoners, including convicted terrorists, in exchange for three Israeli soldiers held captive in Lebanon.