In Israel, a nation mourns with the families of slain soldiers
Two soldiers whose remains were part of a prisoner swap with Hezbollah were eulogized Thursday amid ongoing unease over the exchange and questions about balancing family interests with those of the state.
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"It affects the ability to negotiate on a fair bargain," he says. "This is something that Israel should handle differently. Perhaps the government in the near future will make an official decision that dead bodies will be exchanged only for dead bodies, and live soldiers for live soldiers.Skip to next paragraph
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"If the other side doesn't give you complete information about your soldiers, such as whether they are dead or alive, then you just don't do it. The government could put this criteria in place, and then if a situation occurs in the future, the enemy knows our principles and won't expect otherwise," Mr. Reiter says.
Israel's principle is that it is immoral to leave any soldier or citizen on foreign soil. It has, as a result, sometimes traded hundreds of prisoners for the release of one man. This ethos has come under some criticism in recent days. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at Goldwasser's funeral, defended it vehemently.
"We were prepared to pay a high price, even higher than what seemed logical, in order to see our sons sent home," Mr. Barak said. "If any of you, God forbid, should be captured, or should anything worse happen in the fight against the terror, Israel, its government, and the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] will do everything just and possible to bring you home."
But Aviva Cavaille, a young woman who came to the funeral, said most Israelis could not understand how their government had agreed to a swap that didn't include Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas more than two years ago while on duty close to the Gaza Strip.
"From the ethical point of view, it's not acceptable that we got the bodies of two men, and for that we released a murderer who is alive and celebrating in Lebanon," says Ms. Cavaille. "It creates a greater danger for kidnappings in the future. It shows the weakness of our leadership."
At the same time, many others give Karnit Goldwasser credit for keeping the case of the abducted soldiers on the agenda, traveling globally and trying to force leaders to push for progress on an issue that could have easily have disappeared from the headlines. Among the partners in this were leaders in the American Jewish community, who had made dog tags with the names of the soldiers on them and asked people to wear them in solidarity.
"Karnit singlehandedly raised this level of awareness through her own public presence, and I think that's what got us to this point," says Lori Klinghoffer, the chairwoman of National Women's Philanthropy in the United Jewish Communities, a US umbrella group. "There have been other missing soldiers, and they usually stay in the news for a week or two."
Some Israelis bristled at the public's questioning over the way the swap tallied up.
Columnis Yair Lapid wrote in the Yediot Ahronoth newspaper that even in Israel's "hyperactive democracy" people should occasionally assume that the right decision was made.
"The deal that ended yesterday wasn't good or bad, only necessary. Anyone who thinks there were other options, deludes himself," Mr. Lapid wrote. "While it's true that Hezbollah is more calculated in its attitude toward the fate of its people, who would want to be Hezbollah today? The clamorous debate over the question of 'Did we get a good price or not,' should be kept for buying cars."