NEW YORK, Oct. 18 (JTA) – Israeli sources are releasing few details on Elhanan Tannenbaum, an Israeli colonel reportedly kidnapped abroad and held by Hezbollah.
The explanation is simple: the fewer the words said, the greater the prospects for Tannenbaum’s release.
Tannenbaum, 54, served as reserve colonel in the Israel Defense Force and had various business contacts overseas. After several years as a businessman, Tannenbaum reportedly suffered financial difficulties and an unknown family crisis.
Friends told the Israeli media that Tannenbaum used to travel overseas frequently, often for short periods of several days. He last left Israel two weeks ago. However, although family members had not heard from him for several days, only after Hezbollah announced Monday that it detained an Israeli colonel did the family realize that it was him.
“The kidnapping of my father by Hezbollah is an inhumane and immoral act,” Tannenbaum’s daughter, Keren, 26, said in a brief statement to the media. She said her father was sick and needed medication.
Reacting to Hezbollah reports that Tannenbaum was tricked to come to Lebanon by a business associates, a close friend told reporters:
“This is a sick, elderly family man, who does not speak a word of Arabic. The last things he needs is adventures in Lebanon.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah claimed this week that Tannenbaum was an officer in the Mossad, a charge that Israeli sources denied.
Israeli Cabinet minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer called Nasrallah’s claim a “fantastical story.”
“This is a private businessman whose trip was made in part for personal reasons, and there is no reason to go into those details,” Ben-Eliezer told Israeli media.
Israeli security officials have said the kidnapping took place in Switzerland, but the Swiss federal police could not confirm the report.
Tannenbaum was discharged from service in the 1970s as a junior officer, but throughout the years climbed to the rank of a reserve colonel, a rare phenomenon in the IDF. Although the army reportedly offered him several times to join as career officer, he preferred to continue in the business world.
As soon as Hezbollah announced that it was holding Tannenbaum, Israel declared that he had nothing to do with the Mossad and that he was not sent overseas on a state mission.