Captured Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev (l)and Ehud Goldwasser (right).
Today the Israeli Cabinet approved an exchange with Hezbollah, in order to recover the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured by Hezbollah in July 2006 in the cross-border raid that triggered the Israel-Hezbollah war of that summer. Just as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presided over a disaster of a war, he now has presided over a disaster of an exchange. That is because the price for obtaining the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev, in addition to the release of the remains of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists, including the corpses of 8 Hezbollah men, also includes the release of four captured Hezbollah fighters being held in Israel, and the release of terrorist murderer Samir Kuntar.
The Hedgehog Blog discussed the folly of releasing Kuntar in a previous post on September 8, 2006. Here from that article is the horrific description of Kuntar's heinous acts during a 1979 raid on the Israeli northern coastal town of Nahariya, taken from an article in the Israeli newspapaer HaAretz:
In 1979, Kuntar led a group of gunmen on an attack in Nahariya, during which broke into an apartment and took hostage Danny Haran, 28, and his four-year-old daughter, Einat.
"I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades," Danny's wife, Smadar, wrote three years ago in an account in the Washington Post, describing in part how she hid from the terrorists with her other daughter, Yael, just two.
"I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. "This is just like what happened to my mother," I thought.
"As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.
"By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her."
As I wrote back in September 2006, the contrast between Kuntar and the Israeli hostage prisoners, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, could not be more stark. Goldwasser and Regev are soldiers who were kidnapped by Hezbollah in an unprovoked military raid across an internationally recognized border, accompanied by indiscriminate shelling of Israeli towns.
Indeed, Hezbollah launched its July 2006 raid, in which Goldwasser and Regev were captured, in order to obtain "bargaining chips" to force Israel to release Kuntar. Now, in its final days, the Olmert government has allowed Hezbollah to achieve the original objective of its unprovoked attack on Israel, so that the Hezbollah truly can be said to have achieved its war aims and defeated Israel in the 2006 war.
Even so, one might be able to justify the exchange if Goldwasser and Regev were alive. However, according to Prime Minister Olmert, they are dead, maybe. At the outset of the 6-hour Cabinet debate over the exchange, Olmert announced:
"As far as we know, the two soldiers - Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - are no longer alive. As far as we know, they were killed during the kidnapping or died from their wounds soon after the incident."
That statement takes one's breath away. Olmert is admitting that Israel still does not know whether the soldiers are dead or alive, or, if they are not alive, the circumstances of their deaths. Indeed, perhaps they were still alive yesterday, but Hezbollah, having received Israeli approval of a deal even if the soldiers are dead, will now kill them before returning their bodies.
The stupidity to such an approach to negotiations is mind-boggling. Surely, if Hezbollah wanted the release of Kuntar and the four Hezbollah prisoners, Israel at a minimum could have required a tender by Hezbollah of verifiable information regarding the condition of the captured Israelis. If Hezbollah said the prisioners were alive, Israel could have required a visit by the International Red Cross or another neutral party. If Hezbollah had said that the prisoners were dead, Israel could have required submission of a sample of their remains and a statement of the date and cause of death. Instead, it appears that Olmert was maneuvered into buying a black box, contents unseen and unknown.
Apart from the outrage one feels at the release of a terrorist who, when surrounded and about to be captured, shot down a hostage in front of the eyes of his four-year old daughter, and then used his rifle butt to smash in the skull of the little girl on a rock; one must consider the impact this exchange will have on the prospects for the safe recovery of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped in July 2006 by Palestinian terrorists in a raid from Gaza. Israel has indicated that it will release live terrorist prisoners for dead Israeli soldiers. If so, why should the Islamic Palestinian terrorists holding Shalit want to keep him alive? And what about future Israeli prisoners of war--will this exchange encourage their humane treatement, or even the preservation of their lives?
One thing is sure: Sumar Kuntar, already a "hero" among Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists and their supporters, will now gain even more stature. Moreover, he and the other prisoners released by Israel will soon return to their efforts to kill more Israelis. Truly, Ehud Olmert has added yet another shameful installment to an already infamous political legacy.