In a 22-3 vote, the Israeli cabinet approved a measure that would allow for Samir Kuntar, terrorist serving 4 life sentences for 1979 murders, to be exchanged for Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser who were kidnapped by Hezbollah in June 2006.
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim and Finance Minister Ronny Bar-On opposed the measure while the remaining 22 ministers voted in favor.
The exchange will likely occur on German soil in the coming days.
The cabinet meeting was held after pressure from the Israeli public and the families of the captive soldiers rejected an IDF proposal to declare the soldiers “killed in action,” thereby scurrying any prisoner exchange deal.
Many have voiced that the deal should be withdrawn if the soldiers are dead, so as not to create a precedent. According to a Ha’aretz report, this line of thinking is erroneous as that precedent was already set in the past. According to that article, Israel has released 45 live prisoners for the bodies of IDF soldiers Yossi Fink and Rahamim Alshayach in 1996 and also released another 60 Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the body of naval commando Itamar Ilya.
Many have made the comparison to the situation of missing airman Ron Arad. According to Ehud Olmert:
“For more than 20 years after Arad’s disappearance, we have not had confirmed information on what happened to him,” he said.
“The assumption all this time was that theses people were alive. Today we know for certain that there is no chance of that, and that knowledge must be the basis for today’s decision,” Olmert said during the debate.
While the cabinet approved the deal, now we must wait to see if the exchange actually happens and we will, too, see the state of the soldiers upon their return (if they are actually dead, or alive and we all hope and pray).