Former Justice Minister Dies at 64
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Shmuel Tamir, a former justice minister who negotiated a controversial prisoner exchange between Israel and a Palestinian guerrilla group in 1985, died Monday. He was 64.
Tamir was a member of the Knesset, or parliament, between 1955 and 1981.
Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin broke a lengthy silence Monday to pay tribute to Tamir.
In a message read on Israeli television, Begin said: ″Tamir was ... an outstanding jurist, and an active member of parliament and Cabinet minister. May his memory be blessed.″
Begin’s tribute was one of the few public statements he has made since he went into seclusion after retiring in 1983.
Tamir headed the Israeli group that negotiated the release of three Israeli prisoners held by Palestinian guerrillas in exchange for 1,150 prisoners held by Israel as suspected guerrillas.
The exchange occurred in May 1985.
Less than a month later Tamir resigned as chief negotiator, saying it had been ″not a matter of negotiations but of dictation by one side to the other.″
Tamir was born in Jerusalem on March 10, 1923.
At 15 he joined the right-wing underground guerrilla organization, Irgun, headed by Begin. He was later promoted to deputy commander of operations in Jerusalem.
In 1947, he was exiled to Kenya by the British, returning in July 1948 after Israel became an independent state.
He helped form the right-wing Herut Party, headed by Begin, but several years later split with his long-time mentor and formed the Free Center Party.
In 1977, Tamir joined the liberal Democratic Party for Change and was appointed Justice Minister after his party joined the coalition government headed by Begin.
Tamir dropped out of politics in 1981 but continued his private law practice until his death.