Hezbollah on Wednesday turned over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers it had held for two years in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Among the released prisoners was the notorious Samir Kuntar, who was convicted of killing a 4-year-old girl, her father, and two police officers in 1979. (Bloomberg)
What the commentators said
“This is a deal Israel should have never accepted,” said the Rocky Mountain News in an editorial. This kind of bargaining puts other hostages in danger—“like Gilad Shalit, still held hostage by Hamas”—and it empowers jihadists by showing them how easily they can “exploit the high value placed on life by Western nations.”
Prisoner exchanges are nothing new, said Justus Reid Weiner and Diane Morrison in The Jerusalem Post, but they’re supposed to be done between nations. This deal elevates the status of a proxy organization that has been fighting illegally—and gives it status that should be reserved for “law-abiding states.” No wonder Hezbollah is celebrating.
This is a moment of “undiluted triumph” for Hassan Nasrallah, the powerful leader of Hezbollah, said Ian Black in the London Guardian. He was the one who authorized the cross-border kidnappings of the soldiers in 2006 that sparked the summer war with Israel, and now he has fulfilled his promise to bring “his boys home from Israeli prisons.”
The mood in Israel is somber, said Joel Greenburg in the Chicago Tribune. Some people were clinging to hope that the soldiers—Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser—were still alive. Now at least their families have closure, but the debate on “whether the exchange was worth the price” is only beginning.