By Vic Rosenthal
Recently, Hezbollah officials promised the family of convicted murderer Samir Kuntar that he would be coming home soon. Kuntar, possibly the only Lebanese held in an Israeli prison, was convicted in 1979 of one of the most bone-chilling terrorist murders in recent history.
Kuntar infiltrated into Israel from Lebanon with four others in a rubber boat. He shot Danny Haran, 28, and killed his four-year old daughter, Einat, by smashing her head against a rock and then crushing it with a rifle butt. Smadar Haran hid in a crawl space with two-year old Yael. Trying to keep her daughter from crying out, she put her hand over Yael’s mouth, smothering her to death. Two policemen were also killed in the incident. Kuntar, who received four life sentences, has not denied his guilt, and in fact bragged about his exploit.
Hezbollah presently holds Israelis Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev who were kidnapped in a cross-border raid in July 2006. Presumably they plan to exchange them for Kuntar and who knows what other concessions.
I am sure that the families of Goldwasser and Regev would free ten Kuntars to get them back. I would too, if a member of my family were in their hands. One can also say that Kuntar has been in prison 27 years, and is probably old enough to be relatively harmless by now.
But like the negotiations with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit in return for several hundred, perhaps more than a thousand, Palestinian prisoners, freeing Kuntar simply means that anyone held by Israel, no matter what he has done, can be freed simply by kidnapping an Israeli and holding him for ransom. In Arab eyes, it means that Israel has no honor, like a man that looks aside while his sister is raped. It means that Jewish blood can’t be avenged.
One can imagine that kidnappings will become a regular thing and incarceration worthless as a deterrent to murder. The choice faced by the Israeli government is agonizing.
There is one step that Israel can take to keep from being forced into such an impossible choice whenever some terrorist group wishes. That is to establish a death penalty, speedily applied, for terrorist murderers. When someone like Kuntar spills Jewish blood, he should not remain alive long enough to be exchanged. If we must exchange prisoners, at least the Samir Kuntars will not be among them.