Last spring, many of us read this heartbreaking story by Smadar Haran of the murder of her husband and daughter and the resulting accidental death of her other daughter.
It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel.
Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building.
Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then, Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.
They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing others lived in the apartment. If Yael cried out, they would find us. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat, so that his death would be the last thing she would ever see. Then, he smashed my little girlâ€™s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.
By the time we were rescued from the crawl space hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.
Hopefully, this story will remain in the minds of those negotiating the ill-advised "prisoner exchange" between Israel and Hezbollah terrorists approved by an extremely narrow vote of Ariel Sharon's cabinet today. Because for some unfathomable reason, Samir Kuntar's freedom is once again on the auction block.
It isn't the first time. Smadar Haran relates in this longer version of her story that she's fought this battle before.
In 1984, I had to fight my own government not to release him as part of an exchange for several Israeli soldiers who were POWs in Lebanon. I understood, of course, that the families of those POWs would gladly have agreed to the release of an Arab terrorist to get their sons back. But I told Yitzhak Rabin, then defense minister, that the blood of my family was as red as that of the POWs. Israel had always taken a position of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. If they were going to make an exception, let it be for a terrorist who was not as cruel as Kuntar. "Your job is not to be emotional," I told Rabin, "but to act rationally." And he did.
The Israeli cabinet has been assured that Kuntar's release is not being considered. Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's vote for the swap was procured with the promise that no prisoners with blood on their hands would be released. But we've heard that before. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah says that no deal will be made without Kuntar. With all due respect to the families involved, no deal would be the best deal under the circumstances.
See, with or without Kuntar, the proposal is for the release of 400 palestinians and several dozen prisoners from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Sudan and Libya, as well as the bodies of several Lebanese soldiers and information about landmines in return for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers murdered in captivity and one living Israeli "businessman," all four of whom were kidnapped for the express purpose of extorting exactly such a bargain. And it likely means the end of any hope for the safe return of Ron Arad, who was left out of the deal entirely. In a word, it stinks.
The full text of the resolution approved today is here.
Meryl and Imshin, among others, have already made a number of unpleasant but very important observations about this issue as well.