Israel's cabinet votes on Sunday on a possible prisoner swap with Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. Officials have hinted at an upcoming release two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in July 2006, sparking a war in Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday his government would vote on Sunday on a prisoner swap with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group.
"I have decided to bring the issue to the cabinet for a decision at its next meeting on Sunday," Olmert said in a speech in parliament.
After meeting Olmert on Tuesday, Karnit Goldwasser, whose husband Ehud and fellow army reservist Eldad Regev were abducted by Hezbollah in a July 2006 border raid that triggered a 34-day war in Lebanon, said he had promised her a Sunday vote.
"I very much hope the ministers ... will make the decision to bring Udi and Eldad home," she said.
Through U.N.-appointed German mediator, Israel has offered to release five jailed Lebanese guerrillas in exchange for the soldiers, security sources said.
Hezbollah has been tight-lipped on progress in the indirect negotiations but a Lebanese political source said last week that final touches were being put on a swap deal.
Israel's military rabbinate said this week it was studying intelligence assessments that Goldwasser and Regev did not survive their abduction, and may declare them dead.
Such a move could draw pressure on Olmert from his defence chiefs to offer Hezbollah only the bodies of Lebanese fighters held in Israel, rather than live prisoners -- even at the risk of ruining the deal.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Goldwasser's and Regev's condition should not be allowed to affect any deal with Hezbollah. "We have a responsibility to bring the captives home even if they are dead," he told reporters.
Date created : 2008-06-29