July 16, 2008 was a sad day for the civilized world.
"Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas turned over to Israel two coffins containing the bodies of Israeli soldiers captured two years ago... The U.N.-mediated swap closes a painful chapter for Israel, which launched a war in 2006 against Hezbollah in response to the soldiers' capture in a cross-border raid. It is likely to be a significant boost for Hezbollah at a time when it is trying to rebuild a reputation tarnished after its guerrillas turned their guns on fellow Lebanese in May. After the bodies handed over by Hezbollah were confirmed to be those of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Israel was to turn over five Lebanese prisoners — including a militant convicted in what is perceived here as a monstrous attack (the author refers to Samir Kuntar (Kantar), featured in my previous post - M.M.)... Lebanon's Al-Manar TV quoted senior Hezbollah official Wafik Safa at the border as saying the bodies were in a "mutilated" shape from injuries they suffered during the raid... "We are handing over the two Israeli soldiers that were captured by the resistance ... and whose fate has been unknown until this moment," Safa said. "Now you know their fate"... In the Gaza Strip... people celebrated in the streets and handed out sweets in support of Hezbollah. Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza's Hamas prime minister, called Kantar an "Arab nationalist hero" and said his release was "a great day for the Arab nation." He warned Israel that it will also have to "pay the price" for a soldier Hamas has been holding since June 2006" (source: Aron Heller from AP, via Yahoo! News.)
In my July 29, 2006 post about the soldiers' kidnapping, I failed to upload their photos for some technical reason. I am doing this now. The images are taken from Wikipedia.
Commenting the prisoner swap, Shlemazl wrote that "the Israeli public, which supports the decision, has more heart than brain".
I fully agree with Shlemazl on this and on the Israeli decision being a grave mistake. And not the first one in the story. Back in 2006, Israel yielded to external pressure and aborted the war without a serious military justification. When will the Israelis realize that 95% of the world population will either rejoice or at least sigh with relief if Israel ceases to exist? To try and appease a force with a lethal attitude toward you is a recipe for suicide.
The swap included also handing over the remains of some 200 Hezbollah combatants. I don't mind this; in fact, I wouldn't mind if those remains had been handed over to their families unconditionally. But releasing captured enemies in exchange for hostages will only encourage future attacks and kidnappings. And releasing live enemies in exchange for dead hostages will only encourage Israel's enemies not to bother to keep captured Israelis alive. (In this case, if Wikipedia is accurate, the two reservists were killed during the initial attack rather than in captivity.)
It is a natural and legitimate wish not to leave your people behind. To get them back, or at least their remains. The principle to bury your dead people properly, as far as I know, is reinforced in Judaism (though, frankly, I wonder how some Jews still think that God exists and is worth believing in).
If Israel had stood tall and firmly refused any deal with the hostage-takers, it would have been a very painful decision. But the strategy formulated by F. Kagan as "“Just end the pain now and deal with the future when it gets here” is a road to Hell.
Let's repeat: Rewarding any behaviour, in any way, will encourage and reinforce that behaviour. Rewarding kidnapping and murder means subscribing to more future kidnappings and murders. In fact, while the deal to get back the remains of Ehud and Eldad will surely provoke more attacks in the future, their fate was likely a product of other similar deals in the past. As Kuntar's Wikipedia article reports, several years after his sentencing, "the Palestinian Liberation Front seized the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, demanding that Israel release Kuntar, along with 50 other Palestinian prisoners, though Kuntar was the only prisoner specifically named. The hijackers killed a wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer during this raid and had his body and wheelchair thrown overboard. In 2003, Israel agreed to release around 400 prisoners in exchange for businessman Elchanan Tenenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers held by Hezbollah since 2000. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah refused to accept the deal unless it included Samir Kuntar... Israel then agreed to release Samir Kuntar on condition that Hezbollah provided "solid evidence" as to the fate of Ron Arad, an air force navigator missing in Lebanon since 1986... Inspired by the prisoner swap, Hamas vowed, a few days later, that they would also abduct Israeli soldiers to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners. Hassan Nasrallah simultaneously told his supporters that Hezbollah would continue to kidnap Israelis until "not a single prisoner" remained inside Israeli jails."
So the future is now and if Israelis want more from it, they must stop rewarding their enemies. Especially if bodies are all that the enemies will give in return.