I’m struck by the opposite reactions in Lebanon and Israel to the release of Samir Kuntar and the bodies of IDF soldiers Regev and Goldwasser. Lebanon has made Kuntar’s release a national holiday. Hezbollah touts their victory over Israel and treats Kuntar as a hero of the movement. People dance in the streets.
In Israel, Kuntar’s release rips open old wounds and memories of Kuntar’s horrid crimes and also brings out a felling of hopelessness and impotence due to the fact that the only way to regain the bodies of the fallen soldiers was to release an implacable enemy of Israel with blood on his hands.
In my opinion both sides are learning the wrong lesson from what happened yesterday on the northern border. Hezbollah’s celebration, while par for the course and to be expected for the movement, is odious. What’s to celebrate? That a man who murdered a father in cold blood before his 2 yr old daughter’s eyes and then bashed her head in has come home? A movement based on such victories can build nothing human or worthwhile.
On the other hand, the Israeli right decries Kuntar’s release and plans to use it as a whipping boy against the government similar to the Republicans who cried “who lost China” after the Communists took power there in 1949. The right has learned precisely the wrong lesson here and should not be allowed to score political points for this.
The lesson Israelis should learn, indeed must learn to avoid the terror attacks and the necessity for having national martyrs like Regev and Goldwasser, is precisely what the Olmert government seems to be learning–but far too late in its tenure. The only solution is a negotiated settlement. Start with Syria: return the Golan and Shebaa Farms. Insist on Syria turning off the spigot to Hezbollah and ceasing its meddling in Lebanese internal affairs. Insist that Syria turn off the arms flow from Iran that travels via Syria into Hezbollah armories.
This in turn will humble Hezbollah in a way that no IDF weapon or invasion can. With the weapons and funding reduced to a trickle, the Nasrallahs of Lebanon will quickly come to the realization that their grandiose visions have struck the hard stone of reality. Hezbollah will continue to play a role in Lebanese politics. It may even continue ranting against Israel. But without new missiles and without the wherewithal to pursue their anti-Israel adventurism, they will quickly become just another internal political player like other Lebanese factions.
Hezbollah arose as a force to counter Israel’s invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. Just as it arose out of a precise set of political circumstances, once those circumstances change Hezbollah will become less relevant in its current form. Then it will have to adapt or die.
So there is no reason to celebrate. Samir Kuntar is a savage murderer. His crime was a tragedy. His release is no one’s victory. The lesson is to end the bloodshed on both sides once and for all. No to terror and no to national martyrs.
Please read the bracing and reassuring humanity of Leila Abu-Saba’s meditation on this event. As a Lebanese-American whose beloved elderly grandmother was murdered during the civil war, she has something important to say about it.