Olmert: Even before Lebanon War II, Israel knew it was hopeless to retrieve the abducted IDF soldiers

The capture of reservists Ehud Goldwasser & Eldad Regev in a cross border raid in July ’06 triggered a 34-day war in Lebanon; their bodies were returned in a 2008 prisoner-exchange deal.

By Gili Cohen


Israel’s leadership knew it was hopeless to try and retrieve Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted in 2006, an action which sparked the Second Lebanon War, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday.

Ehud Olmert and Dan Halutz - 12.7.2012 - Moti Milrod

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, & former IDF chief Dan Halutz, in Tel Aviv, – Photo by Moti Milrod

The capture of army reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in a cross border raid in July 2006, exactly six years ago, triggered a 34-day war in Lebanon. Olmert, who was prime minister at the time, ruled out talks on their return. He later relented, negotiating through a UN-appointed mediator.

The bodies of both soldiers were exchanged in July 2008 in a prisoner swap for five Lebanese prisoners held by Israel.

Speaking on the Second Lebanon War on Thursday, Olmert said that Israel’s leadership knew in advance that the retrieval of the two soldiers was a lost cause, saying that the war had “one objective which we did not achieve, and knew in advance that we couldn’t achieve, and it was said in cabinet meetings.”

“We said that we were working to bring about the two soldiers’ release, [however] we had no doubts that it was so (that they were no longer alive), but we didn’t want that to stand as it is, if they were murdered,” he added.

Olmert then said that those who had participated in cabinet meetings at the time “said that there wasn’t a chance to bring them back through a military operation.”

The former prime minister also spoke of that war’s final push, a move to advance IDF forces as much as possible in the last 48 hours prior to the planned ceasefire.

According to Olmert, the Israeli government received an overnight message toward the end of the war from a senior U.S. official, which said that United Nations was about to pass a resolution that was significantly different than the ceasefire, and that was written “under French pressure and [using French] wording, and that the Americans weren’t able to withstand the pressure of this maneuvers.”

“We understood that perhaps the only way to change these things is to let this wider move [of entering moving IDF forces to the north of their positions in Lebanon] to appear as the real thing, so to apply the required pressure on agents in the international arena,” Olmert said.

According to the former premier, “attempts to get anything from the Americans failed, because everyone was asleep. And so eventually, it boiled down to a point in time where it’s possible that the required pressure would not have been created. That’s where the operation dubbed “the last 48 hours” was born.”

Olmert emphasized that “there wasn’t an intention to change strategy, just to create the required effect to bring the international community to finalize things in a direction which we perceived as the right one.”

View original HAARETZ publication at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/olmert-even-before-hezbollah-war-israel-knew-it-was-hopeless-to-retrieve-abducted-idf-soldiers-1.450701