Peres: My heart is torn over decision

President stresses pardoning Kuntar "in no way constituted forgiveness" for his brutal actions.

Kuntar 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Kuntar 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
In separate meetings on Tuesday afternoon, President Shimon Peres spoke with the family members of murder victims who died at the hands of Samir Kuntar and three other terrorists. Kuntar, who had been sentenced to multiple life terms in prison, is set to be handed over to the Lebanese after Israel confirms the identification of kidnapped reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev scheduled to be transferred on Wednesday. Peres first met with Nina Keren, 82, mother of Danny Haran who was taken hostage and then murdered along with his four-year-old daughter in a violent attack led by Kuntar in 1979. Keren, who had written the president a letter in which she begged him not to pardon Kuntar had asked to meet with the president in order to elaborate on her plea. She came to Beit Hanassi accompanied by her four living children and was warmly embraced by the president. In an emotionally charged meeting, Peres told her that he understood her family's pain and their objections to pardoning Kuntar, and that he empathized with them. But he asked them to consider the agonies of the Goldwasser and Regev families to whom he could not deny the opportunity of having their loved ones returned to Israel. "I want you to know that my heart and the heart of the nation is torn over this uneasy decision," he told the family. He spoke in a similar vein to members of the Shahar family. Eliyahu Shahar was the only policeman to be killed in a shootout with Kuntar and his gang in an attempt to rescue the hostages. Earlier in the day, he had told reporters that there would be no joy in signing a pardon for Kuntar and the other terrorists that are to be released with him. "We do not want murderers to go free, but we have a moral obligation to bring home soldiers whom we sent to defend their country," he said. Peres said it was important for every family to know that no effort would be spared in attempts to bring home missing soldiers. Late Tuesday night the President set the process in motion by sending a letter to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann telling him that after meeting with the families he was granting Kuntar's pardon while thinking of the bitter and unbearable pain of the entire nation. He emphasized that his decision "in no way constituted forgiveness," noting that he could never forgive or forget the brutal actions of the "abominable murderer Samir Kuntar." Shortly after signing the letter, President Peres personally informed the Goldwasser and Regev families of his decision.