The prisoner swap: a good deal for Israel

The deal is done and cannot be undone. Now Israel can only grieve and move forward.

Israel’s prisoner swap with Hezbollah, conducted July 16, exchanged the bodies of kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev for several Lebanese terrorists. Chief among them is Samir Kuntar, who murdered a policeman and three members of the Haran family during a 1979 midnight raid in Nahariya.

With Kuntar’s pardon and release, some say Israel paid too high a price. How, they ask, would trading live terrorists for dead Israelis do anything other than encourage Hezbollah to commit more atrocities in the future?

It’s a fair question. Kuntar, who says he regrets nothing, received a hero’s welcome back in Lebanon, a spectacle that disgusted every Israeli and all persons of conscience.

Moreover, Hamas’ emboldened Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced after the swap that he would release soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas two years ago, only if Israel first releases thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including those with Jewish blood on their hands.

The Hezbollah swap could have been the first peek into a terrorist Pandora’s box.

But such is the calculus of suffering: In order to relieve the anguish of the Goldwasser and Regev families, Israel had to reignite the anguish of the Haran family, although Danny Haran’s widow has said she defers to the state to do what’s best for Israel.

Clearly, there were no easy answers, and we don’t pretend to know whether this deal was ultimately good or bad for Israel and the affected parties.

However, we do know Israel and its military take seriously the pledge never to leave a soldier behind. We also know that, given ongoing peace talks between Israel and Syria, the picture is much more complex than meets the eye. Even the Hamas demand for thousands of their prisoners may be bluster, as negotiations for Shalit’s release continue in spite of the public pronouncements.

As long as a terrorist infrastructure exists in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Israel will remain at risk of further kidnappings and other crimes. This will likely not be the last swap, nor the last time we see black coffins roll across Israel’s borders. The war goes on.

For now, Jews around the world mourn along with the Goldwasser and Regev families. We have to trust Israel will continue to do everything to protect its soldiers and citizens, strengthen its borders, combat terrorism and promote its standing in the world.

We salute Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, of blessed memory.