Tomorrow (Sunday) the Israeli cabinet is expected to decide whether to free the brutal multiple murderer Samir Kuntar in return for two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — or their bodies, since there has been no sign of life from them since their capture by Hezbollah two years ago. At the same time, indirect negotiations are underway with Hamas to free Gilad Schalit, who has been held in Gaza for an even longer time, in return for hundreds of prisoners — including the planners of the Passover Seder Massacre in Netanya of 2002, where 30 were murdered by a suicide bomber.
Both the left-of-center Ami Isseroff (“Hezbollah prisoner swap: it’s not too late to save our boys and girls“) and the right-wing Caroline Glick (“Not a personal affair“) have argued eloquently against agreeing to the deals. They point out the obvious:
- that if the deals are made, the kidnappings will have accomplished their purpose and will certainly be followed by more of the same;
- that the return of a living, unrepentant, murderer for the bodies of Israelis will establish that terrorist kidnappers needn’t even keep their captives alive in the future; and
- that the hundreds (perhaps more than a thousand) Hamas prisoners that would be released in a deal for Schalit, prisoners who were taken in operations in which Israeli soldiers lost their lives, would certainly go on to kill many more Israelis.
Yes, it is correct that Jews are required to reedem captives; the obligation derives from Abraham’s redemption of Lot from captivity (Gen. 14). But is there an obligation to redeem present captives (or their remains) if that act is certain to lead to captivity and death for more Jews in the near future? Glick writes,
That Israel will pay a price in blood if the deals go through is a certainty. That more Israelis will meet the fates of Schalit, Regev and Goldwasser is a certainty. The only thing we do not know today is the names of the victims. They could be any one of us. Indeed, they are all of us. For all of us are equally targeted simply by virtue of the fact that we are Israelis.
The situation of the families is tragic, and we who are not in their position may not criticize them for their efforts in trying to save their loved ones. My own son was part of many missions in South Lebanon before the withdrawal in 2000, often in close proximity to Hezbollah positions. My worst nightmares became horrible reality for these families.
The Israeli government must not give in to the pressure to make these trades, so that more nightmares do not become real.
Update [29 Jun 0823 PDT]: Of course the cabinet has decided (by a vote of 22-3) to swap a live, undoubtedly grinning Kuntar for the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser.