Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Swapping coffins for murderers

Today was Israel’s blackest day since I arrived some seven months ago. The ‘prisoner swap’, painstakingly thrashed out between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah reached its macabre conclusion. The two soldiers abducted by Hizballah almost exactly two years ago were returned to Israel, and Israel returned to the Lebanese convicted murderer Samir Kuntar and four Hizballah gunmen captured during the 2006 war sparked by the abduction.

Except, of course, the two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, returned to their homeland in coffins.

It has been quite extraordinary witnessing the debate generated by this saga. Should Israel release the murderers of its citizens in return for dead soldiers? Indeed, should Israel release murderers at all - whether the soldiers are alive or dead? Should the entire principle, which the State of Israel has adhered to throughout its 60 years of existence, of placing the return of its soldiers over almost all other moral concerns, be abandoned?