On Sunday, June 29, 2008, the Israeli government approved, by an overwhelming majority, the outline of an agreement on releasing soldiers abducted by Hizbullah nearly two years ago.

 Behind the Headlines: Israel resolves to bring captives home

 

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser

On Sunday, June 29, 2008, the Israeli government approved, by an overwhelming majority, the outline of an agreement on releasing soldiers abducted by Hizbullah nearly two years ago.

According to the agreement, the two soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, will be returned to Israel, a report on the missing Israeli airman, Rod Arad, will be delivered to Israel and the remains of soldiers from the Second War in Lebanon will also be received.

For its part, Israel will release the convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar, four other Lebanese terrorists and the bodies of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists (including eight Hizbullah members) will be returned to Lebanon. Israel will also give the UN Secretary-General information on four missing Iranian diplomats and, after the exchange, release Palestinian prisoners (the identity and number of Palestinians will be at Israel’s exclusive discretion.)

Israel aspired to reach a deal as quickly and on the most favorable terms possible. Rejecting the current deal could have meant a lengthy delay and a more painful price tag. Still, the cost of the agreement is indeed painful. There are misgivings over the need to release a cold-blooded killer such as Samir Kuntar, who murdered four Israeli citizens, smashing the skull of a 4 year-old girl after murdering her father in front of her eyes. He also bears direct responsibility for the death of her two year-old sister, who was smothered by their mother as they hid from the terrorists. This is the man whose brutality is celebrated by Arab extremists and whose release is sought by Hizbullah.

However, the Cabinet endorsed the prisoner exchange in order to send a message to IDF soldiers and their families, a message that says Israel will always do everything in its power to bring its sons and daughters home. Israel’s regards its responsibility to its servicemen and women as a supreme value, one that stems from the moral foundations of the State of Israel and from the Jewish faith. Israel’s true strength lies in its respect for its core values and its sense of morality.

The Israeli government remains steadfast in its commitment to obtain reliable information on the fate of Ron Arad and to continue working for the release of the young soldier, Gilad Shalit, abducted to Gaza. No effort will be spared to find them and the other MIAs and to bring them home. 

It must be noted that any future attempts to abduct Israeli citizens will be met with full force. Israel’s response to the abduction of Goldwasser and Regev was unprecedented – Hizbullah suffered a severe blow to its infrastructure, arsenals and operatives, while its leaders are still in hiding.

For it is Hizbullah, Hamas, and their fellow Iran-backed terrorists who are responsible for the suffering of Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese. They are the obstacle to peace between Israel and its neighbors.

Israel expects the international community to take decisive action against extremists and to support Israel’s efforts to defend its citizens while it negotiates peace with its pragmatic counterparts.