Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein believes
the time has come for Israel to return the 21
Lebanese citizens held here over the years in the
hope that they could be exchanged for missing
navigator Ron Arad.
Between 1986 and 1994, Israel arrested the
Lebanese, including two relatively famous
hostages, Mustafa Dirani, who at one point held
Arad as a prisoner, and Sheikh Abd el Karim
Obeid. They are sharing a cell in a secret
location in Israel while the rest of the hostages
are at Ramle Prison.
Several of them were juveniles at the time of
their arrest by Israeli forces. Two were under the
age of 16 when they were grabbed from their
homes. Some were tried and convicted for
membership in the Hezbollah and were
sentenced to terms ranging from a year and a
half to four and a half years, but when their
sentences were over, courts extended their prison
stays. The others were never put on trial. None
of them have "blood on their hands" or even
took part in violent actions against Israel. The
most veteran hostage has been held for 13 years.
No organization has ever demanded them back
and that fact, combined with the amount of time
that has passed since Arad disappeared in
Lebanon, has created a controversy inside the
security and legal establishments. Last July, Shin
Bet Chief Ami Ayalon told a closed forum of
state attorneys that he doesn't believe holding 19
of them as administrative detainees as a
bargaining chip for prisoners of war or hostages
"has contributed or will contribute anything."
Ayalon also noted that holding them is not only
immoral, but useless.
Recently Rubinstein has taken up the issue,
suggesting that if they cannot be released all at
once, they could be released gradually.
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