Sunday, June 29, 2008

Freeing Garbage for IDF soldiers

Amid the backdrop of a terrible human tragedy, the Israeli cabinet approved Sunday the prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah, which will facilitate the return of IDF captives Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Despite all the announcements to the families of Regev and Goldwasser, Israel's intelligence community changed it's mind over the past few weeks and their assessment is that the 2 missing IDF soldiers are dead.

In return for the 2 [dead?] soldiers, among those Israel will be releasing is the notorious Samir Kuntar. In an incredible show of personal dignity, Smadar Haran, the widow of Danny Haran (murdered by Kuntar) wrote to Israel's Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter stating she had no objections to Kuntar's release. The letter was read at today's cabinet meeting.
"The despicable, vile murderer Samir Kuntar isn’t, nor has he ever been, my private prisoner. Kuntar is a prisoner of the State, which sentenced him to five terms if life imprisonment for his vicious crimes," she wrote.

"His fate must be decided now, according to Israel's best defensive needs and moral interests, which should serve the people of Israel, now and in the future.

"I ask that my own personal pain not be taken into account when you deliberate, despite its significance and implications. I cannot overlook the pain and suffering of the Goldwasser and Regev families, or the moral debt I have to all those who have worked for my safety.
To get an idea of what sort of human garbage we are talking about, this is what Smadar Haran wrote in the Washington Post in May 2003. It is must reading to appreciate her current position.
Abu Abbas, the former head of a Palestinian terrorist group who was captured in Iraq on April 15, is infamous for masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. But there are probably few who remember why Abbas's terrorists held the ship and its 400-plus passengers hostage for two days. It was to gain the release of a Lebanese terrorist named Samir Kuntar, who is locked up in an Israeli prison for life. Kuntar's name is all but unknown to the world. But I know it well. Because almost a quarter of a century ago, Kuntar murdered my family.

It was a murder of unimaginable cruelty, crueler even than the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, the American tourist who was shot on the Achille Lauro and dumped overboard in his wheelchair. Kuntar's mission against my family, which never made world headlines, was also masterminded by Abu Abbas. And my wish now is that this terrorist leader should be prosecuted in the United States, so that the world may know of all his terrorist acts, not the least of which is what he did to my family on April 22, 1979.

It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border. Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer. As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.

Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. 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. 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.
And what do I think?

1. The State of Israel gave up thousands of terrorists over the past 15 years to support the Oslo process which has brought nothing but the deaths of thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers. Rockets continue to pound Southern Israel from Gaza, and terror continues unabated from the West Bank. And in return for giving away thousands of Palestinian terrorists and criminals, we have received exactly nothing. If we are able to tangibly receive captured IDF soldiers (living or dead) by exchanging them for Palestinian terrorists and criminals, then we have a moral responsibility do so. If we "sacraficed" so much for the failed promises of Oslo, then the least we do is get our soldiers back.

2. IDF soldiers grow more cynical daily as they see corrupt leaders of the likes of Ehud Olmert zig-zag on every decision possible. Ensuring the return of Goldwasser and Regev will send a signal to IDF soldiers that despire the corrupt leadership, the country is still willing to "pay the price" for their release. We will not leave them behind, as we have done so often for the past 2 decades.

We owe it to our soldiers -- we ask them to fight for us. The least we can do is bring them home.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Unlike my friend A Soldier's Mother, I do not yet have a son in the army. I'm uncomfortable offering an opinion. On the one hand I see the point of bringing home our boys at any price, on the other hand I wonder if such an exchange makes our soldiers feel safer ("they'll always bring me home") or more frightened ("now they see that capturing soldiers pays").

I would not want to be in the shoes of the decision makers on this one.

Jack Steiner said...

Kuntar makes me bloodthirsty. I hope that he gets his just reward soon.

Rafi G. said...

interesting perspective (#1).

yitz said...

Except #1 forgot one more thought that every soldier will now have: "If they capture me, they'll probably kill me immediately, since my dead body will bring them the same price as my being alive!"
UGH :((

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shalom Josh -

I had this argument with Lurker tonight on my way home from work, and would like to convince you otherwise.

If we lived in a vacuum, then I would agree with you 100%.

Yet the morality of the governments of Israel has dwindled over the past 15 years since the start of Oslo. Israel has freed thousands of terrorists and criminals proving that "crime pays." And what did Israel receive in exchange? Nothing.

Israel released 2 primary bargaining chips, Mustafa Dirani and Shekh Obeid (who were supposed to be used to get information about Ron Arad). Why were they released? To procure the freedom of a drug dealer - Col. Tennenbaum.

I am willing to bet that Samir Kuntar would eventually be released as part of a "terrorists for peace" good-will gesture to the Palestinians, in exchange for exactly, NOTHING.

Therefore, why is giving away a terrorist in exhange for the bodies of 2 soldiers such a terrible thing? The upshot is at least we're getting "something" in exchange -- instead of the gaurantees of nothing for "good will" gestures. Plus, from a halachik standpoint, Karnit Goldwasser will positively lose her status of "aguna" and be allowed to remarry. Don't those 2 points count for something?

2) Regarding Halacha. The government of Israel is not basing it's release on halacha -- however Shas did ask R' Ovadia and I understand the issue of Karnit being an aguna was significant.

Yes, there are limits, but Israel has already give away terrorists like Kuntar, negotiated with terrorists like Kuntar, and they have even been released and come back to kill us again.

We might as well get something for Kuntar.

Anonymous said...

We've been discussing this here.

Unknown said...

The Rov of Tzahal would have pronounced them dead withou the bodies and therefor no aguna issue..Further the govenment knew all this long ago.WHY WAIT FO THIS DEAL NOW?Why ask the Rov now.All the data has been there for a long ime.It was even reported tat the Rov was upset about receiving the data so late .I do not trust shas at all.All they are interested is in their'kitsbaos',just like the Chareidim.
No concern for klal yisroel or the state of Israel.This is the issue in general.I feel for the parents but the future of the state takes prcedence.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

The Rov of Tzahal would have pronounced them dead withou the bodies and therefor no aguna issue...

There was an IDF soldier present today at the demonstration outside of the PM's office, who had been officially listed as dead by the IDF and the IDF rabbinate in the Yom Kippur war when he was captured by the Egyptians. Nevertheless, he was clearly "alive" today.

Further the govenment knew all this long ago.WHY WAIT FO THIS DEAL NOW?Why ask the Rov now.All the data has been there for a long ime.It was even reported tat the Rov was upset about receiving the data so late.

You raise an extremely important point now. The fact that Olmert decided NOW to say the soldiers are dead, and he was against the deal now is extremely worrisome. Since we can't trust his judgement anymore than that of Shas - how do we really know whats in the best interest of Israel?

If Kuntar would not be released in the future, I would totally adopt your position, except unfortunately, past PMs guarantee future poor performance.

I will state that I'm not sure the same blanket statement should be given regarding Gilad Shalit. In the case of Regev/Goldwasser its Kuntar, 4 Hizbolla soldiers and a few unimportant Palestinians.

With Gilad Shalit, they are talking about hundreds.

Where do we draw the line? I do tend to be more sympathetic to Karnit Goldwasser because of her aguna status.

Esser Agaroth said...


What will this deal do to deter future kidnappings.


The Yishmaelim don't care about Jewish lives. But if they see it's a waste of their time to kidnap them, then they will be less likely to bother. It's as simple as that.

Then we can focus on all of the other ways they'd like to destroy us instead.

Oh, whoops. I almost forgot. We have a government which has similar ideas about Jewish lives.

Jewish blood is cheap.

yitz said...

Jameel, Perhaps you've been reading Ha'aretz & ynet too much. Go back to reading Arutz 7, here.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Yitz: There's nothing new in the A7 fact, I said 2 years ago we lost the war for similar reasons. You can't claim now that giving away Kuntar disqualifies the sacrifices of the soldiers, because begging for a ceasefire 2 years ago was the same exact thing! Why should we have stopped the war THEN when we didnt accomplish any of the war's stated objectives?

Anonymous said...

Last time (with Tannenbaum) we gave away 400 prisoners for one drug dealer.

This time, it's about 20 prisoners for 2 soldiers.

If I were in the cabinet I would have voted against. But in numerical terms, we can adopt this

Yes the 2 soldiers are probably dead. But the point is that nobody on our side knows that for sure. Let's be clear, this is not a deal to get bodies, this is a deal to end a hostage situation in which two families have to live with not knowing whether their family member is dead or alive or whether they will ever see them again.

At the same time, I hope the IDF finds a way to "re-kidnap" Kuntar shortly after he is freed, in the case that Regev and Goldwasser are in fact dead. (And especially if it is revealed that they died recently.) Kuntar will not take the security measures that Nasrallah for example does, so finding him should be easy.

Anonymous said...

"And in return for giving away thousands of Palestinian terrorists and criminals, we have received exactly nothing."

True, but irrelevant because two wrongs don't make a right.

yitz said...

Jameel: Why should we have stopped the war THEN when we didnt accomplish any of the war's stated objectives?
Agreed, but as Anon just above me wrote, 2 wrongs don't make a right. What happened to cold logical thinking? Why are we so swayed by the admittedly tragic situation of 2 families, but not concerned about the future safety of countless Israelis, soldiers AND civilians??? I just don't get it!!!

Unknown said...

If the two solldiers are dead then we should return Kuntar also dead.
No one is also talking about that we are returning also palestinians to Nasrallah.Are we making him the next Saladin?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Re: "2 wrongs don't make a right."

Yes, but if we dont release him now and get Goldwasser and Regev in exchange, then in all likelihood, Kuntar will be released anyway...for nothing (one of those goodwill, terrorists for peace gestures).

Shouldnt we get something for the monster, instead of nothing?

yitz said...

Jameel, You sound like an adviser to Olmert's wonderful regime. Nasrallah has defeated you already:

Lion of Zion said...


kuntar has been held for almost 3 decades. he is a symbol of the basest terrorism. every israeli knows and loathes him.

he is not one of those nameless/faceless palestinian prisoners who israelis don't recognize and are willing to release (what's one more terrorist on the streets?)

do you really think israel would just release kuntar as a goodwill gesture?

(yeah, yeah, i know the answer. anything is possible with corrupt israeli politicians.)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

LoZ: Israel's politicians have a almost perfect track record for releasing terrorists in exchange for nothing. Yes, I believe Israel would release Kuntar as a goodwill measure.

Since I have so much confidence in Israel's politicians to do the wrong thing, we may as well get our soldiers back. The IDF Chief of Staff is in favor of the swap because of the importance of strengthening the troops that Israel will do whatever it can to bring them home again.

Since Oslo started, Israel has a miserable track record for caring for its soldiers.

Gabi Ashkenazi is trying to change that.

yitz said...

Somebody oughta tell Ashkenazi that he is ENDANGERING the soldiers, for anyone captured in the future will probably be killed, as it doesn't change the "price" the enemy will demand!

yitz said...

"The principal justification offered for the release of Samir Kuntar, an unrepentant murderer of four Israeli citizens, who has vowed to return to the battle against Israel as soon as he is released, is that IDF morale depends on soldiers knowing that everything will be done to bring them back if captured.

But it is far from clear how relevant that consideration is with respect to the return of dead bodies. At least one petition of reservists called upon the government not to offer anything in return for the bodies of any of the signatories. Moreover, it is hard to believe IDF morale will be improved by a negotiating strategy that will have the inevitable effect of removing all incentives for the proper treatment of Israeli POWs.

Worse, by treating the bodies of Israeli soldiers as valuable bargaining chips, the Israeli government has removed one of the primary incentives for captors of IDF soldiers to keep them alive. Not exactly a major morale booster."

More here.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Yitz: Standing orders in the IDF are to avoid getting captured at all costs.

We should kill terrorists, not release them in bargains.

You are thinking in Western Morality terms. We are not dealing with groups that really care about POWs, but what is best for their own self-interests.

We should never rely (or assume) that our POWs will be treated with even a bare minimum of care.

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