Prisoner swap close as families cling to hope

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

A prisoner deal between Israel and Hizbollah is a “matter of days” away, according to Israeli officials, as the families of the captured israeli soldiers cling to hope they might still be alive.

In the deal, Israel will transfer to Lebanon convicted murderer Samir Kuntar and four Hizbollah members. Israel will receive its two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured two years ago. The unofficial assumption in Israel is that the soldiers are dead.

Israeli sources confirm that the German-brokered deal with Hizbollah will be finalised in a “matter of days”.

An IDF examination of the scene of the soldiers’ abduction concluded that they had been critically injured in the attack and the German intermediaries have also said they believe the two are not alive. Despite this, the IDF does not normally acknowledge its soldiers are dead in the absence of clear evidence.

Karnit Goldwasser with posters of her husband (left) and Eldad Regev

“Every headline and report over the last two years has caused us more pain,” Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud (Udi), told the JC this week. “But I understand that this is the job of the media, I have more of a problem with those who leak to the press.” Mrs Goldwasser received her master’s degree in civil engineering from the Technion Institute in Haifa last week, in the presence of President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

“I just had to finish my thesis,” she said. “I don’t know if I will work as an engineer in the future, I have learnt so many things about myself over the last two years and I am only now beginning to think about what I will do when I grow up. But this was something I began in 2004, when Udi was with me, and thanks to the support of my family and friends, I have now finished.”

A resolute advocate for her husband’s release, Mrs Goldwasser has travelled the world, even confronting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN. This week she refused to comment on the imminent deal.

A source close to the families told the JC: “They are not saying anything now because they have been informed that the last talks are being held in these very hours. There is a growing realisation that their loved ones are dead, but still, they are clinging to a last ray of hope.”

Last updated: 4:54pm, June 23 2008