Prisoner Exchanges

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has stated that Israel must do everything in its power to bring back Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, regardless of whether they are dead or alive. From his statement, it appears that he makes no distinction between the two cases. Hizbullah, it would appear, has not even been required to provide evidence of their status as a precondition for negotiations.

Even if the two men are no longer living, chas ve’shalom, we should seek to bring them to Jewish burial, and in the case of Goldwasser to prevent his wife from being an agunah. But why can’t Barak, the families of the two men, and the cabinet, acknowledge forthrightly that there ought to be a big difference in the price to be paid in the two cases. By acting as if there is not, are we not in effect encouraging the captors of other soldiers, like Gilad Schalit (who is known to be alive), to make no effort to keep them alive. After all, if we make no distinction between dead and live Jews, why should Hamas or Hizbullah.

And might we not expect from Barak some acknowledgment that not every price is worth paying. In the case of the proposed Hizbullah exchange, for example, Samir Kuntar, the brutal murderer of 4 Jews, has already vowed to return to war against Israel, if released. And by returning him, Israel gives up its last bargaining chip for information about Ron Arad. Different questions of proportionality can be asked about the exchange of Gilad Schalit for hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians with blood on their hands, who are likely to return to the path of terrorism against Israel.

These issues are widely discussed in the responsa literature, and have, unfortunately, come up many times in the Jewish history. I wonder whether anyone in the Torah world has attempted to offer guidance in this area or whether the government sought such guidance. My suspicion on both accounts is: No.

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8 Responses

  1. Charles B. Hall says:

    “I wonder whether anyone in the Torah world has attempted to offer guidance in this area or whether the government sought such guidance.”

    Yeshiva World News reports that Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has instructed Shas party ministers to support the Hizbullah prisoner exchange deal:

  2. ClooJew says:

    RJR, Is it fair to equate the political world with the Torah world in terms of their interest in having this discussion? The way you put it, it sounds like a Yiftach – Pinchas standoff. I ask, lulei demistafina, and not rhetorically, Is this an accurate portrayal.

  3. lacosta says:

    while i assume such guidance hasn’t been sought, i also assume when you say ‘torah world’ you are referring to the haredi torah world. i would assume they would not take part in such discussions, since they and their community are not a part of society that does the army, so they should perforce defer to the authorities of communities whose life is on the line…and would it not smack of chutzpa to opine on issues which one exempts [and even forbids] oneself ?

  4. Don't Free Samir Kuntar says:

    PA leaders: Quntar a hero
    by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

    According to the Palestinian Authority leadership, Samir Quntar epitomizes the ideal Palestinian prisoner. Quntar, who crushed the head of four-year-old Eynat Haran with his rifle, is serving four life sentences for murder in an Israeli prison, but is almost certain to be freed in a prisoner swap with Hizbullah this week.

    On one hand, Quntar embodies what the PA considers the “heroism” of terrorists fighting Israel. On the other hand, he’s the ultimate symbol of all terrorist prisoners who have murdered Israelis and will eventually be freed as a result of future kidnappings or through some other means.

    PA TV, controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, broadcast the following picture honoring Quntar. He is depicted beside a map of Israel completely covered by the Palestinian flag.

    According to Smadar Haran, her last memories of Danny and Einat, that day, were when they were being led away at gun point by Kuntar. She could hear from her closet space Danny telling Einat, “Don’t be scared, my baby, it will be alright” and Einat replied to him in her little voice, “Dad, where is Mommy? I want Mommy.” Smadar’s last memory of her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, was when her little daughter was taken to the apartment hiding space. Right before Yael had her mouth covered by her mother, she asked her mother “Where is my little pacifier.” There was no time to search for the pacifier. Minutes later Smadar covered Yael’s mouth to keep her from revealing the hiding space. Smadar soon felt her daughter’s tiny tongue licks and lip sucking on the palm of her hand. She didn’t know what to make of it at first but hours later was told by doctors and paramedics that the reason Yael was licking her palm while she covered her mouth was because she was gasping for air.

    After drowning Danny in the sea in front of little Einat, Kuntar, the brave Lebanese freedom fighter, then turned his attention towards the frightened little 4-year old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the little toddler’s head, knocking her to the ground. As little Einat was knocked to the ground, she was screaming and crying hysterically “mommy daddy help me,” while thrashing her little legs around in the sand. But unfortunately Einat was alone, and no one was there to save her. Kuntar then dragged the little toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find, this was while she was begging him not to hurt her. Kuntar, then laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her little arms, Kuntar struggled with the little toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way so that he could aim for her head. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar proceeded on beating her on the head over and over with the butt of his rifle, and repeatedly stomping on her little body as hard as he could as well, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth, and her little cries faded away as she was knocked into unconsciousness. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued on beating her over the head, as hard as he could, several more times until her skull was crushed and she was dead.

    Following are several recent quotes from PA leaders since April 2008, describing Quntar:
    “Samir Quntar, the warrior from Lebanon.”
    “The brave warrior, Samir Quntar.”
    “The Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership are standing behind you (Quntar).”
    “You (Quntar) are an inseparable part of the action to free our homeland.”
    “Your (Quntar) patience and strength are a lesson for us.”

    Besides bludgeoning Eynat Haran to death with rocks and his rifle, Quntar killed her father and was responsible for the death of her infant sister. He also killed two policemen in the 1979 attack in Naharia. The Israeli cabinet today approved a prisoner exchange that would free Quntar and several other prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped by Hizbullah in 2006. The exchange could happen within the next few days.

  5. Noclue says:

    Shas voted for this. Shas presumably cloears all its important votes with “Gedolei Torah,

  6. dovid says:

    It is my gut feeling that Kuntar is safer in jail. He is doomed if he is freed. The Israeli secret service has a long memory and a long hand. And when he is assassinated (when not if), the Israeli secret service will leave its business card behind, to dispel any doubts as to what took place and why. This doesn’t change the nature of Jonathan Rosenblum’s question as well as the issue of Shas’s participation in this decision.

  7. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    I am quite certain that the Regev and Goldwasser families went to visit Rav Ovadia Yosef and that the decision of the Shas ministers to vote in favor of the deal was given the blessing of their Rabbinic guide.

  8. avi says:

    if you do not serve you have no say

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