Outmaneuvered in the bazaar

Nasrallah One question that Israelis have been asking themselves is whether the deal to bring back Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was proof of how much we value our soldiers, of proof of the stupidity of our government.

The basic deal was Israel got the two soldiers back — with Hezbollah not saying whether they were alive or dead.  Hezbollah got five live prisoners back, including Samir Kuntar, a notorious terrorist who murdered five Israelis, including a father and his two daughters, one of them four years old.

The soldiers, of course, turned out to be dead.  So for two bodies — and for bringing the sense of closure to the families and the nations — Hezbollah got live prisoners, including a vicious terrorist and 200 bodies.

Daniel Gordis says the deal was a mistake, but it was worth it.  Click here  to read his article.  The essence of his argument is:

We did the right thing. We gave Karnit Goldwasser her life back. We gave Udi and Eldad the burial they deserved. We gave their parents some certainty, and with it, the hope that maybe, just maybe, they, too, can start to live again, even with the searing pain that will never subside. And perhaps most importantly, we showed the next generation of kids who will go off to defend this place that this is not a country about calculus, but about soul. We showed them what it is to love. We showed them that we’ll get them back. No matter what.

I’m a little more "hard-hearted" about this.  Samir Kuntar, the murderer of the father and his daughters, had the following to say in a TV interview a few days ago: [The interviewer asked about killing people, including children] "No. I am proud of this, and Allah willing, I will get the chance to kill more Israelis. "

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that letting our soldiers know we will make dumb deals to get them back even if they are dead will make them feel better.  If, God forbid, I were captured and killed, I would not want my government to make a stupid deal and free a live killer to bring my body back.  If I were still alive, it would be a much different question — I’d probably be OK with them releasing a few murderers to bring me home.  But dead?  I don’t think so.

The Talmud says that redeeming captives is a great and important commandment.  But it also cautions us, and forbids redeeming captives for more than they are worth, "for the good of the world."  Paying excessive ransom just encourages more kidnapping.

Now that Hezbollah got back people with "blood on their hands" for a few corpses, what will Hamas expect for Gilad Shalit?

Lacking any evidence of their being alive, I think the government should have considered the two captives dead, and offered just the 200 bodies — and maybe the prisoners of war — but not the murderer.  Would have been quite a reasonable deal: 200 for 2!  Maybe we care more about bringing our dead home.  But even in tough times, on tough issues, we have to act smartly.


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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