The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called upon the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert not to release any further jailed terrorists in return for kidnapped Israeli soldiers, especially not Samir Kuntar, of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), who is serving multiple life terms for the killing of three members of the Haran family and policeman Eliahu Shahar in Nahariya in 1979. Despite a report in the German magazine, Der Spiegel, claiming that Prime Minister Olmert is preparing to issue a statement that the Israeli reservists kidnapped by Hizballah in 2006, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, are in fact dead, an Israeli government official has stated that the government is still involved through mediators in negotiations with Hizballah over an exchange of terrorists for soldiers. The official also said that there is no new, definitive information about the kidnapped men and that he believes that they are still alive. Such negotiations are believed to have been in progress for months, with Hizballahs Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah demanding the release of many terrorists with blood on their hands, including Kuntar (Mark Weiss, PM to declare Goldwasser, Regev dead, Jerusalem Post, February 17, 2008).
Kuntar was captured in Nahariya and jailed in April 1979 when he and other PLF terrorists seized Danny Haran, 28, and his 4-year old daughter, Einat, and removed them to the Nahariya beachfront where Kuntar shot Danny Haran in front of his daughter, then drowned him in the sea to ensure he was dead, before smashing the 4-year-olds skull with a rock and crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Danny Harans wife, Smadar, managed to hide with her other daughter, 2-year-old Yael, whom she accidentally suffocated in an effort not to betray their whereabouts to the Palestinian terrorists.
It has also been reported that Prime Minister Olmert has decided to loosen the criteria regarding jailed terrorists to be included in an exchange, despite vociferous objections by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). Israels position up until now has been that it would not release prisoners with blood on their hands, an already broad definition that enables terrorists who planned but did not carry out attacks, or who enabled others to carry out attacks, or whose terrorist attempts failed to claim Israeli lives, to be regarded as not having murdered civilians. Nonetheless, such a definition excludes from any list precisely those prisoners the Palestinians most wanted to see released. Olmert is said to have accepted the recommendations of Ofer Dekel, his point man on negotiations over the missing soldiers, to relax the criteria still further and met on February 3 with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Internal Security Minister and former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter, Minister without Portfolio and former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon, Environment Minister and former deputy Shin Bet head Gideon Ezra, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to discuss the issue.
Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin has argued against relaxing the criteria and engaging in a massive exchange of hard-core security prisoners, saying this could lead to a spike in terrorism and boost and support for Hamas. Ramon, Dichter, Ayalon and Ezra are believed to favor relaxing the definition of blood on their hands while Livni and Friedmann are thought to be opposed. The recent Winograd Committee report on the Second Lebanon War strongly urged the Israeli government not do crazy deals to secure the release of captured soldiers, since this only boosted terrorists motivation to capture more. The deal will reportedly include the exchange of 450 Palestinian prisoners, whose names were drawn up over the last six weeks by an interministerial committee headed by Ramon.
A 2006 detailed report issued by the Almagor Terror Victims Association (ATVA), shows that between the years 1993-1999, Israel released 6,912 terrorists within the context of confidence building measures and prisoner deals. Of that number, 854 (14%) were arrested subsequently for lethal terrorists acts which claimed the lives of 123 Israelis. The ATVA report concluded, The mass killing due to these attacks included a huge number of victims with disabilities due to the attack and many other victims. In all the previous death-bargains, the overwhelming majority of those released returned to terrorist activities, at the cost of a huge destruction of life.
Meir Indor, Director of ATVA, disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the last five years were killed by Palestinians who had been previously released from Israeli jails on the basis that they were without blood on their hands (Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008). Also in April 2007, the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Chairman, Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that 35 Israelis had been murdered by prisoners Israel released in exchange for Elchanan Tennenbaum, an Israeli businessman kidnapped by Hizballah (Independent Media & Review Analysis, April 13, 2007).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, Prime Minister Olmert is making a grave and costly error in proceeding with efforts to exchange jailed terrorists for kidnapped Israeli soldiers, even if the proportions involved in the mooted exchange were not so massively lopsided. Considerations of justice, morality, prudence and security all dictate that exchanging jailed terrorists for kidnapped Israeli soldiers is liable to cause more kidnappings, strengthen terrorist groups and result in more innocent Jewish life being shed.
It is clear that prisoners the Israeli government is defining as not having blood on their hands often fall into that category simply because their terror plans failed, or because others pulled the trigger or detonated the bomb. This does not make them any the less attempted murderers or accessories to murder. We are fooling ourselves if we believe releasing such people will not lead to further murder and maiming of innocent Israeli men, women and children. It is also a travesty of justice that murderers and attempted murderers go free without serving their sentences. Now, even the flimsy and misleading criteria of not having blood on their hands looks like being discarded by the Olmert government so that more multiple murderers can be freed.