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We can still stop the Israeli government from making a bad mistake. If all goes as scheduled, the Israeli cabinet may make a decision on Sunday, June 29, that would affect the lives of not two, but thousands of Israelis - boys, girls, men and women, Jews and Arabs. If the Israeli cabinet decides to release convicted Samir Kuntar in return, most likely, for the bodies of murdered soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, they will open the way for the next round of kidnappings that may end in a much larger war than the Second Lebanon War (see With blood on their hands).
Since I last wrote about this issue, a few things have changed. Pressure has grown within the Israeli government and beyond to make Prime Minister Olmert reconsider his ill-judged promise to the families of the kidnapped soldiers to make the swap. As I noted, experts had concluded that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser probably died shortly after the kidnapping. The "difference" is that now this is admitted publicly and the IDF is proceeding with the religious process that would declare them dead. This will not change the reality.
Ehud Olmert never bothered to explain the reasoning behind decision to make the swap, and strangely nobody asked him. Israel fought the Second Lebanon War precisely in order to avoid making this sway, so what changed? Israel would not give up Samir Kuntar in any previous hostage situation, including the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. What changed since then?
Most of what has been written about the swap, and most of the publicly voiced considerations are irrelevant. Eitan Haber writes that it doesn't matter if Samir Kuntar is a bad guy, we still have to do anything to return our captives. Israel Hasson writes that it would be "immoral" to release Kuntar. The obvious and inconvenient point that they are missing is that the Israeli government is not conducting a kindergarten class in morality, but making a policy decision. Haber recounts that the first such swap was made thirty years ago. He forgets to tell you that a live soldier was exchanged for some prisoners of various descriptions, rather than exchanging a convicted murderer for dead bodies. In 1978, it wasn't quite so clear that such exchanges would drastically increase the likelihood of kidnappings. The Israeli soldier exchanged then had not been intentionally kidnapped from Israeli soil.
Of course there are "moral" issues, but they are not related to Kuntar as Haber thinks or to motivation of soldiers as Hasson thinks. The problem is not Kuntar, but Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah. The problem is that releasing Kuntar in return for dead bodies is not going to bring our boys home, and it will whet the appetite of the Hezbollah for further kidnappings, and perhaps further wars. How can we possibly justify this risk? It will also signal to the Hezbollah and other enemies that Israeli captives are worth as much dead or alive. That puts a death sentence on any future kidnap victims. It is easier for politicians and op-ed columnists to succumb to the tears of mothers and loved ones and the pressure of PR campaigns. It is much harder to explain that what they are asking will not bring our beloved sons back to life, and will condemn many other sons and daughters to death.
There are other alien considerations that play a role, but are not mentioned. Many in the Israeli government and defense establishment feel that not not enough was done to try to save navigator Ron Arad when it was still possible to do so. The "Ron Arad complex" however, does not apply to Goldwasser and Regev. Israel has tried very hard indeed to get them back or at least to get some signs that they are alive, but with no success.
It is true, as advocates of the swap insist, that Goldwasser and Regev might be alive despite all the indications to the contrary. Very well. Let them get some evidence that they are alive. If Regev and Goldwasser are alive, and if the Hezbollah are honestly interested in a deal, they would be willing to provide such information in return for some lesser captives. Surely, the number of prisoners Israel would be willing to release would be very much greater if the government had evidence that the captives are alive, as is the case for Gilad Shalit, captured by the Hamas.
If Israel gives up Samir Kuntar, does anyone believe it would put an end to kidnapping? If we give up every enemy prisoner in Israeli jails, won't the the Hamas kidnap more Israelis in order to get Sheba farms or some part of northern Israel that they claim? Will an Israeli government of the future be faced with a crowd of angry parents and "advocates" insisting that we must give up Rosh Haniqra or Kiriat Shmona in order to free their sons, alive or dead?
It is still not to late to demand a reasoned accounting of advocates of the prisoner swap, an accounting based on the realistic assumption that the kidnap victims are dead. and that takes into account the great victory that will be handed to the Hezbollah and the price that all our sons and daughters will surely pay in the future.
Please help - write, call or fax Knesset members or members of the government - preferably in Hebrew. Ask them to stop the swap and save our kids from future kidnapping and blackmail. Their contact information is
Some important cabinet officials and government members:
PM Ehud Olmert
Telephone 2: 02-6753547
Benjamin Ben Eliezer
Telephone 2: 02-6408194
Israel Ministry of Defense
TEL: 03-6975423 03-6975540
Kaplan St 37, Tel Aviv, 61909
Please do it today, as the issue will be discussed on Sunday.
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