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Tenenbaums Saga Ends
17:08 Aug 03, '04 / 16 Av 5764

End of a four-year national saga: Elchanan Tenenbaum will not be tried. The State Prosecution has determined that the man who spent three years in Hizbullah captivity suffered long enough.

The end of a four-year national saga: Elchanan Tenenbaum will not be tried, it was learned yesterday. The State Prosecution informed his lawyer yesterday - Tenenbaum's 58th birthday (Tu B'Av), and the date of his mother's death - that it had determined that he fulfilled the conditions of the agreement made with him in February, shortly after he was released from over three years in Hizbullah captivity.

The story began in October 2000, when Tenenbaum, an IDF reserve officer of the rank of Colonel, was abducted while on a "business trip" of some sort in an Arab country. It was widely thought that he was being tortured by the terrorists, as no sign of life was received from him for at least two years. Negotiations for his release - and that of the bodies of three soldiers killed around the same time as Tenenbaum's kidnapping - began in earnest in mid-2003. It was soon learned, however, that the circumstances of Tenenbaum's abduction were such that could land him in jail upon his return to Israel, and that he had entered into suspicious dealings with Iranian and other Arab elements. In addition, suspicions arose that he may have divulged sensitive IDF information to which he had been privy.

Despite this, Israel agreed to release over 400 Arab terrorists in exchange for Tenenbaum and the three bodies. Intensifying the controversy was the fact that among the terrorists to be released were two senior ones who had been long held as "ransom" for the release of downed Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad.

Finally, on January 30 of this year, Tenenbaum arrived in Israel. A month later, he signed a unique plea-bargain agreement with the State Prosecution, with the approval of Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz. Its terms stated that Tenenbaum must divulge all the details of how he came to be held by Hizbullah and precisely which classified information he disclosed to them. In return, he will be sentenced to jail - if at all - for only as long as he spent in Hizbullah captivity, such that he would be released at once. If he were to be found to have perpetrated crimes against national defense, or not to be telling the truth, the agreement would become null and void.

In the course of the ongoing investigation, it was found that Tenenbaum did not disclose secret information, nor did he coordinate his abduction in advance. He has not told the entire truth of his "business" dealings, but the investigators did not find that he lied on "substantial matters."

Tenenbaum, now a free man - though he will not be permitted to leave the country or even to apply for a passport - broke down in tears when he heard the news that his ordeal had ended.

Last year, the Cabinet voted only narrowly, by a one-vote margin, to approve the exchange deal with Hizbullah. Objections included the following:

* The loss of bargaining cards for Ron Arad, who went missing during an IDF mission, as opposed to during a "private business trip."
* The surrender to blackmail. "If we give in to this," said then-Minister Effie Eitam at the time, "no Israeli will be free to walk anywhere in the world... What we have to say is, 'Tenenbaum is alive, in the sovereign territory of the country of Lebanon, and if a hair on his head is harmed, Lebanon and the heads of Hizbullah will pay the price.'"
* The high price and the release of Arab terrorists. "How will Tenenbaum's family be able to look into the eyes of the loved ones of those who will be killed by the terrorists who will be released?" Meir Indor said. "A country has to know how to pay a price for the war against terrorism, just as I myself was sent to fight a battle against four terrorists; I was wounded, but could just as easily have been killed."

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