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Copyright 2003 Jerusalem Post
November 9

HEADLINE: Hostage swap likely to squeeze by cabinet


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is confident a slim majority of ministers will vote at Sunday's cabinet meeting to approve the emotionally charged prisoner exchange with Hizbullah, senior government officials said Saturday night.

Israel Radio reported that four ministers were still wavering: Health Minister Dan Naveh, Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Minister-without-Portfolio Meir Sheetrit, and Immigration Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni.

A spokesman for Lieberman said he will decide only after hearing from the heads of the security services at the cabinet meeting.

The cabinet, according to government officials, will be asked to vote on the principle of the exchange, without going into either the names or the numbers of those to be released.

"The debate and the resolution that will come up for a vote will be on the principles of the deal, not on specifics," one official said.

The ministers will be briefed by Shin Bet head Avi Dichter and Mossad head Meir Dagan, who are expected to warn that the exchange may lead to more kidnappings, and by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon and OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash), who are expected to support it and warn of the ramifications of not going through with the trade.

It is widely believed that in exchange for Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the remains of three kidnapped IDF soldiers - St.-Sgts. Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan, and Omar Sawayid - Israel is expected to release some 400 Palestinians prisoners, none with blood on his hands, and some 20 Lebanese prisoners, some of whom committed terrorist acts against Israelis on Lebanese soil.

The Israeli defense establishment has maintained the criterion that only Lebanese prisoners involved in attacks against Israeli installations in Southern Lebanon may be included in the exchange, and not those who perpetrated attacks within Israel.

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