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Oh Tannenbaum our Tennenbaum: Israel's great security fiasco.

02/28/2004

The Israeli-Hizbollah prisoner exchange conducted on January 29 raised more than a few eyebrows. Israel exchanged hundreds of live prisoners, including some very unpleasant characters, and many bodies, in return for the bodies of three soldiers and a shady businessman and IDF reserve officer, Elhanan Tennenbaum (Tannenbaum).


The affair was ugly from the start. Sheikh Obeid and other Lebanese prisoners had been kidnapped and held by Israelis expressly in order to get back missing soldiers like navigator Ron Arad. The soldiers had been kidnapped and killed by the Hizbullah while UN troops stood by filming the event as part of their "peace keeping" function. The UN then tried to suppress information of the existence of the film. The Hizbollah for its part, refused to release information concerning the fate of the soldiers until the last second. The Israeli government released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners at the request of the Hizbollah, generating a great victory for extremists. This was the same Israeli government that doesn't succumb to terror, and that refused to release the same prisoners in order to shore up the government of Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas (remember him?). The Hizbullah announced they would consider kidnapping more Israelis, as the exchanges were so favorable.

The piece de resistance of this unsavory mess however, was IDF reserve Colonel Elhanan Tennenbaum, a former artillery officer, billed by his family as a hero who had gone to Lebanon to try to get information about Israeli navigator Ron Arad, whose fate is unknown. While the negotiations were being carried out, his family moved to suppress information about Tennenbaum that might not be quite the saint he was depicted as being.

The real problems began after Tennenbaum was released, and it became increasingly apparent what Israel had gotten for its bargain. Tennenbaum gave the Hizbollah a nice performance on their television station, al-Manara, announcing that he didn't consider them a terrorist organization and that he was well treated. As soon as he got home, he began singing a different tune, claiming that he had been tortured and that he could sit in one place and touch all the walls of his cell. He claimed that he had arrived in Beirut looking for information about Ron Arad as well trying to do a "private" business deal. It soon emerged that he failed a lie detector test. Tennebaum had not been kidnapped that way. Israeli security forces feared that he had been spying for the Hizbollah or

Tennenbaum was a compulsive gambler who had gotten into debt. This righteous war hero, a regular paragon, decided to do some drug deals to pay off his gambling debts. Thereopon Israel investigators made a deal with Tennenbaum, giving him immunity from punishment if he will tell the truth, provided that he was not spying for Hizbollah before he was kidnapped. Apparently, Tennenbaum was not kidnapped in Beirut, and didn't go anywhere to get any information about Ron Arad. It seems according to reports that he is an ordinary crook who travelled to Dubai to do a drug deal.

Investigators are worried that Tennenbaum gave away information about a "certain system," apparently classified military weapons data. That is the "bargain" for which Israel traded so many hundreds of prisoners and gave the Hizbollah such a great victory. Israeli MKs are appealing the deal.

The investigators made the deal because they wanted to find out if Israeli security was compromised. In fact however, Tennenbaum's behavior and the great victory handed to the Hizbollah in order to get him back have already compromised Israeli security in an irreversible way that may be far worse than leaked information about a weapons system. The deal with Tennenbaum set a dangerous precedent that compromised Israeli security and moral stance even further.

As I wrote previously:

The problem is, that it is not done and over with. We shall be remembering the after-effects of this deal, like the after-effects of an indigestible meal eaten in haste, for a long time.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000209.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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