Nasserallah’s prisoners’ exchange: closing a chapter or opening a new one? [Archives:2008/1175/Viewpoint]

July 24 2008

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
The entire Arab and Muslim world is joyful – almost ecstatic with delight – at the successful prisoners' exchange orchestrated by Hezbollah. It would seem that it is not a really fair bargain especially since two dead soldiers were exchanged for five live ones and the bodies of 197 men from Lebanon. Hezbollah has regained its popularity in the region, but especially in Lebanon, after the party lost some of its glamour because of the heavy destruction caused by Israel's war in 2006, a war which in essence was caused by Hezbollah's refusal to surrender the two soldiers.

But today, it seems like the 2006 war is a story of the past, and both Israel and Lebanon want to close this chapter. This occasion also helped Lebanese groups find peace after a long time dispute that had cost lives in the streets of Beirut.

But all being said and done, what does Israel get from such a deal? To start with, as the Israeli government puts it, the exchange shows, if nothing else, the solidarity of the Israeli people and their commitment above everything else to bring Israeli sons home. It also gives them the closure they needed to be able to bury their sons and go back to their lives.

But politically speaking, I think that this exchange has allowed all governments an opportunity to learn about negotiating. The Israeli government has an indicator that even their most evil enemy, Iran at the moment, might be persuaded to find some common ground or joint interest as Lebanon has done.

For many in Yemen, Hassan Nasserallah is an icon of resistance and a symbol for all Muslims. His photos are hung on walls in shops and homes and even on cars. It does not matter that he is a Shi'ite Muslim or that his religious practices of Islam are quite different from the majority of Yemen.

Then how come Yemenis are not able to accept their own countrymen and women who are of a different sect? The answer is that they do. The ongoing war in Yemen is not a sectarian or religious one; it is purely political and encouraged by war merchants who keep supplying weapons and drugs to all sides in order to get richer and richer.

Perhaps the lessons learned from the prisoners' exchange are not only applicable to the Levant region, but perhaps also to our government in Yemen who could make use of it. If historic enemies could strike some sort of deal, then why can't people of the same country do the same and allow peace to return to Yemen?