New York Times reports:
NAHARIYA, Israel — Israel is a tale of family tragedies lived out within small distances.
Consider the Harans and the Goldwassers, two families in Nahariya linked by shocking killings nearly 30 years ago that have returned anew to break mothers’ hearts.
Their stories have reopened wounds in a nation that expects on Wednesday to swap a prisoner held responsible for the deaths of three members of the Haran family for the remains of a Goldwasser son taken hostage just across the border in Lebanon in 2006.
Soon after midnight on April 22, 1979, Samir Kuntar, 16, a Lebanese Druse, slipped from a small boat onto one of Nahariya’s beaches along with three other fighters from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. That bloody night is seared into Israel’s national consciousness, one of the great tragedies in a country marked by them.
The four men killed a policeman and broke into an apartment building and kidnapped a young father, Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, taking them to a nearby beach. Mr. Kuntar was found guilty of murdering Mr. Haran in front of Einat, then turning to the child and crushing her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle.
Smadar Haran, Danny’s wife, hid in the apartment’s crawlspace with the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, accidentally smothering her to death in an effort to stop her from crying out.
Now, almost 30 years later, Mr. Kuntar has lived to intersect with another family’s fate, the Goldwassers.
Against a backdrop of indirect peace talks with Syria, Israel is preparing to trade Mr. Kuntar and other Lebanese terrorists in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, which captured Ehud Goldwasser and another army reservist, Eldad Regev, in a cross-border raid that started the war between Hezbollah and Israel two years ago. Syria has always been one of Hezbollah’s main patrons, along with Iran.
The deal has stirred an especially painful debate in Israel, where the captured reservists, Mr. Goldwasser and Mr. Regev, both university students, have been declared dead. Though Israel has a history of trading large numbers of prisoners to receive captured soldiers, the prospect of exchanging the country’s most despised prisoner for corpses has raised hackles. There is also considerable mistrust of Hezbollah and fears that its seeming success in obtaining Mr. Kuntar’s release will only encourage it to attack again.
Hezbollah has said it carried out the 2006 raid in a bid to win the release of Mr. Kuntar, whom Hezbollah celebrates as a hero. Past attempts to secure his release include the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985.[...]
In the Lebanese city of Sidon, preparations are under way for a festive return for Mr. Kuntar. The central square is decorated with pictures and banners welcoming him home as a hero.
The swap is scheduled to take place on Israel’s side of the border at Rosh Hanikra. The town’s antenna towers are visible in the distance from Nahariya, where Mrs. Haran and Mrs. Goldwasser will be waiting for their shared tragedy to come full circle.