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July 16, 2008

Israel Bargains With The Devil

In exchange for the bodies of two dead soldiers, Israel released 5 live killers.

Among the men who arrived at the border in an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy was Samir Qantar, Israel's longest-serving Lebanese prisoner. Wearing jeans and a grey sweater, he was mobbed by reporters and well-wishers on arrival.

Hezbollah has prepared a triumphal welcome for the five men freed under a deal seen by many Israelis as a painful necessity, two years after the two soldiers' capture sparked a 34-day war that killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 Israelis.

Israel retrieved the corpses of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev only after agreeing to release Qantar, who had been serving a life term for the deaths of four Israelis, including a four-year-old girl and her father, in a 1979 Palestinian guerrilla raid on an Israeli town.

The four others are Hezbollah fighters captured in the 2006 conflict. All five were to be flown to Beirut ahead of a huge Hezbollah rally to welcome them in the evening.

... Israel denounced the planned festivities.

"Samir Qantar is a brutal murderer of children and anybody celebrating him as a hero is trampling on basic human decency," said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev.

Well Mr. Regev, that's the kind of people you just cut a deal with.

Retrieving soldiers killed in battle is a noble act but doing it in this way simply lowers the value of every other soldier captured in the future. It's not as if these murderous thugs need an excuse to kill anyone but rewarding them for doing it by returning their compatriots alive and well removes any incentive they have to keep prisoners alive.

While today's swap will hopefully bring some comfort to the families of the two soldiers, it's hard to see how this is anything but a sad and dangerous day for Israel.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:23 PM

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