July 1: Readers react to deal with Hizbullah

I fail to understand why the Israeli government is making a distinction between the people Kuntar killed and the dead Israeli soldiers.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - Now that the government has approved swapping live killers for dead soldiers, it may come to realize that this precedent significantly reduces the chance of there ever being another (live) Gilad Schalit. Why should our enemies feed a captive for years when his remains are worth as much to Israel as a living soldier? ("Goldwasser, Regev expected home in 10 days," June 30.) The references to past dangerous Israeli concessions in order to justify the current one brought to mind this rhetorical question from the Talmud: One who ate garlic and smells bad, should he continue to eat garlic? AVIGDOR BONCHEK Jerusalem Sir, - I fail to understand why the Israeli government is making a distinction between the people Samir Kuntar killed and the dead Israeli soldiers. All are dead, so why compensate Hizbullah? YISRAEL OHAYON Malta Sir, - We are all hostages. We are all being held captive. We all have sons, grandsons and brothers. One can only imagine what it would be like to have to live without them. How many among us, in the same predicament as the Schalits, Goldwassers and Regevs, would be willing to sacrifice their sons? There is no easy answer. HELA CROWN-TAMIR Mevaseret Zion Sir, - Surely there has never in modern history been such evidence of cruelty of mind and body as exhibited by Hizbullah toward its captives and their families in the name of a supposedly merciful Allah. The handing over of so many prisoners, among them at least one cold-blooded murderer, is mind-boggling. No country in the world would do what Israel is doing. The world sits silently by and lets Israel continue to pay every kind of price demanded by Hizbullah and its Muslim allies. Our soldiers will go on being kidnapped, and all Israelis can do is hope we can capture terrorists, dead or alive, to exchange for them. The world cannot ensure Israel's safety, and it does not care about Israel's existence. And the way Israel's policies are being pursued, it seems our leadership itself does not care how Israel will face its 61st and 62nd year of existence. TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem Sir, - I share Judy Montagu's outrage at the thought of releasing that monster Kuntar ("Why Samir Kuntar mustn't go home," June 23). Yet it should never have happened. Israel should years ago have instituted the death penalty for all terrorists who murder civilians. Then it would have set a ground rule of exchanging only enemy combatants captured on the battlefield. If vibrant democracies such as India, Japan and the US have capital punishment for murderers, how much more so must Israel for imprisoned terrorists who, uniquely, incite the enemy to seize soldiers as hostages. Susan Atkins, Charles Manson's minion, is today dying of cancer, yet the authorities in California are very reluctant to free her because she took part in an infamous murder spree in the 1960s. JACOB MENDLOVIC Toronto Sir, - What about the three Sultan Yakoub MIAs - Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman? Their names are very conspicuously absent from almost every article and commentary I've seen on the prisoner exchange issue. If the families have been in unbearable pain until now, such blatant omission can only cause them to explode. GERSHON HARRISi> Hatzor Haglilit Sir, - Bottom line: Israel gave into blackmail and, as everyone knows, blackmailers keep coming back. V. COHEN Tel Aviv Sir, - I'm pretty much just another American Jew. I've never been to Israel - either time or shekel constraints, or both, getting in the way. I believe in Israel and have supported it over the years with donations for my grandchildren's sake. America will never turn on me, but I bet my great grandfather said the same about Germany. So, as a foreigner, but also as a Jew, I ask: Where is your coherent plan for dealing with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbullah? If you have one, it sure is hidden. If not, better get one. The Arabs seem to know what they are doing in order to change the field of battle to one of their choosing ("Defense establishment: The exchange is a mistake," June 30). SCOTT SCHNEE Phoenix, Arizona A different tune Sir, - How nice of President Shimon Peres to boast about Israel's destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 and the recent Syrian facility, saying "This is the only air force in the world that has such an achievement." I am old enough to remember how Peres, then chairman of the Labor Alignment in the Knesset, fought hard to prevent the government from carrying out the Osirak attack, claiming that Israel would afterwards be like "a thistle in the wilderness." Despite America's confirmation of Israel's assessment of Iraq's nuclear threat, the Americans refused to act. Fortunately, Menachem Begin, then Israel's prime minister, ordered the attack. The rest is history ("IAF only air force to hit 2 reactors," June 26). ISRAEL RUBIN Beit Shemesh So near, yet so far Sir, - Re: "Egyptian troops kill 7-year-old refugee" endeavoring to pass into Israel from the Sinai on a journey that started in Sudan (June 29): Can we imagine the hardship, misery, trials and tribulation this child endured on her journey to the land over the rainbow, only to be brutally murdered before the gates of freedom could be opened to her? We are complicit in this and the other 15 murders of refugees committed by the Egyptian army on the Israeli-Egyptian border. Who knows where the answer to this vexed question lies. But let us not forget that we were once refugees from Egypt. IVAN ISRAEL Tel Aviv In hot blood Sir, - Re "Teenager arrested for Tel Aviv lawyer's murder" (June 23): I always have admired the strict laws strongly enforced in countries like Turkey, where carrying knives and other sharp instruments is not permitted. When I lobbied MKs to persuade them to pass laws similar to those in Turkey, I had a big surprise: They patiently explained to me that our laws are just as tough as Turkey's - but the police do not enforce them effectively. If that Israeli teen had known that carrying his father's knife could very likely lead to his arrest and serious punishment, he might not have taken the risk. The same goes for tens of thousands of Israelis who carry knives all the time. We have to accept that we have many hot-blooded citizens with a "short fuse" who are inclined to settle their differences impulsively. An intensive campaign is needed to get knives off the streets. Prevention is better than cure, and much cheaper. DEBORAH GOSHEN Kiryat Ono No minister Sir, - Your headline read: "2.8 million tourists this year... and still no minister of tourism!" (Mark Feldman, June 28). See what happens when the government gets out of the way? Let's have more of the same. ISRAEL PICKHOLTZ Elazar