Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Freeing Samir Kuntar

Haaretz reports on how the exchange will be conducted tomorrow to return Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser to Israel, in exchange for five Lebanese terrorists. They were abducted on July 12, 2006 - the attack by Hizbollah that sparked the Second Lebanon War. It's unclear whether Regev and Goldwasser are still alive - a couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was asking the military rabbinate to declare them dead, and there was a report in today's Haaretz that said that one of them was killed during the abduction two years ago. The Lebanese government has announced that tomorrow will be a national holiday to celebrate the "liberation of prisoners from the jails of the Israeli enemy and the return of the remains of martyrs."

I wrote about Kuntar before, on August 10, 2006, and about the horrendous crime he committed. It's disgusting that the Lebanese government is celebrating him.

One of the other things that Hizbollah is giving to Israel is a report on Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot who was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and hasn't been heard from since. Olmert rejected the report that Hizbollah has already delivered, saying that it's unsatisfactory and didn't give Israel the information it needs about him.

If Regev and Goldwasser are still alive, then it will be worthwhile to set Kuntar free. Their lives and freedom are more important than he is. But if they are not - then is it worth it to set free this murderous, unrepentant terrorist?

Bradley Burston says it better than I can:

For Israelis, even after all these years, the release of Kuntar is a form of self-inflicted torture. So heinous, so unpardonable were his crimes, that American Jewish author and journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, himself a veteran of the IDF, wrote on The Atlantic Monthly's Website last week, "As unbelievable as this sounds, Israel is actually thinking of swapping Samir Kuntar in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah. Kuntar is perhaps the most terrible person held in an Israeli prison, a man who crushed the skull of a Jewish child against a rock. Sometimes, these prisoner exchanges don't seem worth it."

What are they for, these prisoner exchanges? Perhaps only for this: that when sending their troops into battle, Israeli commanders can continue to look them in the eye and say with candor and in good faith that if they are taken prisoner, Israel will spare no effort to bring them back.

It may be all we have left to endure this torture. But it may also be the essence of what we are.

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