Strange Deal

Now this really puzzles me.

Israel has just agreed to trade one live prisoner, a Lebanese man by the name of Samir Kantar, for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who had been held hostage by Hezbollah starting in 2006 and were finally killed.

This is a case where a mixed and conflicting group of considerations have to somehow be “summed” to get one result, and that’s tricky. But still, I’m surprised the deal has been accepted.

Kantar is responsible for a horrifying crime. He killed a man in front of his 4-year-old daughter, and then killed the girl by smashing her head to bits. His wife and 2-year-old were in hiding, and the wife accidentally suffocated the baby to stop her from crying out. First thought–the murderer deserves to be punished, not to be released into the arms of his supporters back in Lebanon.

And then there’s the fact that once free, the man stands a chance of doing the same sort of thing. So, second thought—for the sake of deterring future crimes, it’s better for Kantar to remain in prison.

The parents of the two soldiers have suffered unimaginably as Israel has sought their release over the last year and a half. It’s understandable that they would find emotional comfort in the return of the bodies. So, third factor—it’s better for the parents’ wishes to be respected, and they do want the bodies returned.

For people to put themselves in harm’s way for their country, they must be assured of their good being taken extra seriously. Thus, the fourth consideration—it’s especially important how the soldiers and their parents are treated.

It’s traditionally Jewish to take the desecration of the dead as a serious offense, especially among the Orthodox. So, fifth consideration—it’s important for the bodies of the two Jewish soldiers to be sent home for a respectable burial.

But if they are returned, that tells hostage takers that a dead body has just as much bargaining potential as a live body. It surely puts future hostages at greater risk. Sixth—it jeopardizes future hostages to release Kantar in exchange for dead bodies.

I wouldn’t discount any of these considerations. They’re all relevant, but the factors having to do with preventing future deaths (#2 and #6) seem especially important. Putting it all together, I would have thought it was clear as can be that no trade should be made.

Which makes me wonder—what gives? What am I missing? Does this decision make any sense to you?

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