The last scenes of the disastrous Second Lebanon War were played out on Wednesday, and ended with Hizbollah being able to claim victory even more convincingly than they did two years ago.
This time, Hassan Nasrallah was able to present it as a truly national triumph. Hizbollah has not only managed to recoup much of its military strength, but has achieved a deal-making position in the Lebanese government. The return of the prisoners was celebrated as a national holiday and Kuntar, a Druze who committed his murders before Hizbollah was even founded, was claimed by the Shia group as one of their own. The captives received a red-carpet reception and were embraced by leaders from across Lebanon’s sectarian government. It all added up to a rare moment of unity for Lebanon. Hamas managed to deliver a ceasefire in Gaza; and it seems that once again the armed resistance has managed to win a victory that the state actor cannot. Just as the first stages of the Lebanon war were mismanaged, it seems so were the closing ones.
Another urgent prisoner swap remains; Hamas are not going to settle for less for Gilad Shalit than Nasrallah got in his deal. Convicted murderers will be released alongside the hundreds of less high-profile prisoners in the next swap, and Israel knows it cannot afford to delay very much longer. A deal was offered soon after Ron Arad was captured in 1986; Israel deemed it too tough and turned it down — and he is still missing, 22 years later.