Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to reject Hizbullah's demand that terrorist Samir Kuntar be included in any prisoner exchange deal. "The murderer Kuntarâ€¦ personifies the monstrous evil of the terror we have been fighting for generations," Hanegbi said. "His release would crown Nasrallah the decisive winner in the Lebanon conflict and deal a deathblow to the government's efforts to set new rules in the North. It would cast doubt on the justification for the sacrifice made by those who died in the war." Peretz, responding to Lebanese guerrillas' prisoner exchange demands, acknowledged earlier on Wednesday that Kuntar, imprisoned for a deadly 1979 raid, was at the center of talks to free the two kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Israel has refused in previous swaps to free Samir Kuntar, convicted of killing a man and his young daughter in an attack on their house in Nahariya. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, whose Hizbuallah guerilla group is holding the two soldiers, demanded on Tuesday that Kuntar be freed as a condition of any exchange.
Nasrallah: No deal without Kuntar
Asked about Kuntar, Peretz did not rule out the possibility of releasing the Lebanese terrorist.
"There is no doubt that Samir Kuntar is one of the central questions being dealt with in any negotiation of this type," Peretz told Israel Radio on Wednesday. "But I suggest that we allow this issue to be dealt with in a very, very secret, very serious, very significant manner."
Releasing Kuntar would be an extremely charged political decision because of the brutality of the raid. After bursting into a building in northern Israel, he shot a man in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killed the girl by smashing her head against a rock with his rifle butt.
The man's wife, who had hidden in a crawl space in the family's apartment, held her hand over the mouth of their 2-year-old daughter to keep her from crying out. In trying to save their lives, the mother smothered the child.
Hizbullah's capture of the two soldiers and killing of three others touched off the recent war between the guerrilla group and Israel in Lebanon.
Although Israel has rejected calls for a prisoner swap and the UN cease-fire ending the Lebanon war called for the soldiers' unconditional release, Israel has exchanged prisoners in the past. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he will appoint a mediator to broker indirect talks between Israel and the Islamic guerilla group on the servicemen's release.
On Tuesday, Nasrallah said he accepted the UN mediation, and that the envoy would launch talks next week.
Kuntar is serving prison terms totaling 542 years for the 1979 attack.