‘If this is the beginning of talks, what will be at the end?’

Bereaved brother of murdered IDF soldier says unlike the Gilad Schalit deal, the "people don't support this deal."

By
July 29, 2013 06:28
3 minute read.
Israelis wearing keffiyehs with hands covered in fake blood protest the release of prisoners.

Israelis wearing keffiyehs protest prisoner release 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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“We’re in a war, a war over public opinion and we have to do whatever is possible.”

Oren Tamam, 50, hustles off the platform at the Hashalom train station at Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv, and pauses for a few minutes at the shopping center’s food court.

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He’s on his way to an interview at the Channel 1 studio nearby, his third of the day after Channel 2 and Channel 10. Tamam is a bereaved brother in the middle of a media blitz, trying to stop a prisoner release that only a couple hours later was approved by the cabinet.

“The people don’t support this deal. We supported the [Gilad] Schalit deal because there was a payoff, a captive soldier that you knew would return,” he said. “But this, to give in to this demand from the very beginning? What’s going to be at the end?” Tamam catches his breath amid a packed crowd of young soldiers, teenagers on summer break and midday shoppers at the mall. He’s been up since 4:30 a.m., when he rose before dawn to drive to Jerusalem from Netanya to take part in a protest against the prisoner release outside the Prime Minister’s Office.

He has no faith in the understanding that Netanyahu will not release Israeli Arabs such as his brother’s killers as part of the deal, and that “there’s no way to believe that they won’t be part of it too. He also said in the past he’ll agree to talks with no preconditions, and look what he wants to do now before having talks.”

Tamam was a young man himself on the night of August 6, 1984, when his younger brother Moshe, then only 19, hitched a ride back from his base at the Beit Lid junction with four Israeli Arabs from Baka al- Gharbiya.

Unknown to Moshe, the four men were part of a terror cell plotting to kidnap a soldier and spirit him off to Syria to trade for Palestinians jailed in Israel.

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Tamam said when his brother didn’t come home they thought he was with friends. It was years before cell phones or Facebook, so they waited patiently and didn’t try to reach him or become alarmed. They even went ahead with a birthday party for him two days later, and only after all the guests left around 11 p.m., did they get a knock on the door from IDF officers telling them that Moshe had been murdered.

“Our lives stopped at that very moment, everything we’ve ever done since is just by inertia,” Tamam says.

“We smile but it’s forced, all of our lives are suspended completely since that very moment.”

From that day Tamam and his other brother, Albert, both soldiers at the time, vowed to honor their brother’s memory, and both later named their first-born sons Moshe.

Tamam later re-enlisted, serving 27 years as a career soldier, eventually retiring as a lieutenant-colonel in the Logistics Corps. Along the way, he, his siblings and their parents carried on a personal battle to honor their fallen son, and try to prevent future prisoner releases, which, he says, they believe will only push the cause of peace further away.

One bereaved father who feels differently is Rami Elhanan, an outspoken peace activist whose daughter, Smadar Elhanan, was murdered in a bus bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997.

Smadar is one of three 14- year-old girls killed in the attack that took the lives of five Israelis. While her father says that for the past 16 years he hasn’t been able to sleep, he adds, “I don’t think that the blood of children that has already been spilled is redder than that of the children whose blood will be shed in the future if we don’t achieve peace.

“I could wake up in the morning and kill the entire world, but it wouldn’t bring Smadar back,” he says.

Smadar was the granddaughter of Israeli general and left-wing politician Mati Peled, and the daughter of far-left activist Nurit Peled- Elhanan. Her father said Sunday that while he takes no issue with the bereaved families who oppose the prisoner release, it is important to remember that “if you look at history, every peace deal between enemies always started with a prisoner release. We have to return prisoners if it is part of a process that will result in peace.”

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