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Israel’s risky prisoner swap
Is trading live terrorists for dead soldiers wise?
W

hat happened
Israel’s cabinet approved a deal to exchange Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese militant serving multiple life sentences, for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. The soldiers were abducted in 2006, sparking a bloody month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah. Israel would also get the partial remains of two dead soldiers in the swap, and Hezbollah would get four other captured fighters and some Palestinian prisoners. (AP in USA Today)

What the commentators said
This deal is horrible, and it sets a very bad precedent, said Benny Morris in the Los Angeles Times. By trading live terrorists for dead soldiers, Israel is only encouraging “all the region’s terrorists to take Israelis hostage,” and pushing up the price for other Israeli soldiers killed or taken prisoner.

“It seems a simple and wise principle: You don't negotiate with hostage-takers because it only encourages more hostage-taking,” said the Chicago Sun-Times in an editorial. And realeasing a “monster” such as Kuntar—who in 1979 murdered a civilian in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killed her—is a high price. But Israel won’t regret “the very human impulse” to reassure its soldiers that it will never abandon them.

There were plenty of reasons to oppose the swap, said the Jerusalem Post in an editorial, but at least it’s more modest than what Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wanted. In any case, the cabinet approved it and the deal is supported by most Israelis, who hope that bringing the boys home will give the families, and the nation, closure.

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