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West Bank kidnapping: Israel's crackdown moves beyond Hamas militants

By arresting Hamas-affiliated journalists, charity workers and parliament members, Israel is going way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens.

Someone’s gotta say it: what Israel has been doing in the West Bank over the past several days goes way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens. It is a military and political attack on Hamas intended on serving the government’s agenda, with no connection to the attempts to find the teens, and no clear connection between Hamas and the kidnapping.

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Let me clarify: I am sure that the army is making efforts to find the three, and I hope they are found and returned, safe and sound, as soon as possible. But this does not justify the cynical exploitation of the circumstances for other political goals entirely.

Over the last couple of days, the army’s operations have extended into Bethlehem and Nablus – the heart of Area A (where the Palestinian Authority is in charge of both security and civil matters). The army arrested members of Hamas’ charity organization, as well as journalists affiliated with Hamas and the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who is a member of the party. A total of 200 people. Computers and weapons were also confiscated. And all this while the search after the teenagers is focused on the Hebron area, which is under closure. There is no doubt that many of these operations are unrelated to the teens, and that no one in the army thinks that charity workers, journalists or parliamentarians know where they are.

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

While military operations grow, both Israel’s military and political leadership are undergoing a certain change. If, during the first two days, the rhetoric included talks of a general search for the teens and blaming the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, we now see a clear focus on Hamas. Anonymous senior officers told the media that the goal of the operation in the West Bank is focused on “all things green,” and that it will last even after the search for the teens is over. Furthermore, we are hearing more and more positive statements regarding the cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (without mentioning that Hamas is part of its government) as well as that of Abbas.

We must put these things in context: last week, Netanyahu found himself a bind. He failed miserably in his attempt to mobilize the world against the new Palestinian technocratic government. The same government that won universal support, and even received a “launch present” from the EU in the sum of millions of euros. After years of division within the Palestinian leadership, and political division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (a division Israel itself laid the foundation for), all of a sudden a renewed PLO and an unarmed, united Palestinian struggle focusing on international pressure on Israel became a distinct possibility.

Read: How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective

And Netanyahu couldn’t do a thing about it. He, who released endless statements, could neither boycott the new Palestinian Authority, nor send thousands of soldiers into the heart of Area A in order to arrest Hamas parliament members for nothing. Then came the kidnapping, and all of a sudden the rules of the game changed. All of a sudden we can attack Hamas as much as we want, where we want, how we want, and no one in Israel or around the world can oppose us. And all of a sudden we can divide the Palestinians once more by labeling the PA and Abbas Israel’s favorite collaborators, while labeling Hamas the biggest threat that must be uprooted.

Israeli soldiers walk near a burning tire in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

Israeli soldiers walk near a burning tire in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

This, despite the fact that Hamas never claimed responsibility for the attack, that its representatives in the West Bank have not responded to the incident, or that carrying out a kidnapping at a time like this would mean political suicide for the organization. It must be remembered that Hamas was pushed into joining the PA after it lost much of its support in the Arab world, and suffered from the strengthening of Egypt’s blockade on Gaza. There was no other way out. It received a life preserver in the form of a new government, as well as the possibility of elections and international recognition.

And then came the kidnapping. There are those who say that Hamas, and each of its members, are a legitimate target for Israel. I believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization that attacks and kills Israeli citizens without justification. But Hamas is also a political party that received a majority of the votes in the last election that took place in the occupied territories. It is also comprises an array of charity groups that have no connection to terror. It is also a political group that has changed its positions over the last years and is now willing to negotiate with Israel. As my colleague Noam Sheizaf previously said: if the Israeli government was truly interested in peace, Palestinian reconciliation would have presented a wonderful opportunity.

IDF soldiers in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

IDF soldiers in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

But even those who support full-scale attacks on Hamas must also know that this current attack is a cynical exploitation that seeks achieve other aims that have nothing to do with the release of the teenagers. It is sad that Netanyahu has chosen this path, rather than investing all efforts in retrieving them.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Read more on the West Bank kidnapping:
Sheizaf: Reward activism and diplomacy, not violence
Derfner: The kidnapping is indefensible – but Israel helped provoke it
Zonszein: Israelis aren’t the only ones facing national tragedy

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    1. Piotr Berman

      I am not sure if this is cynical exploitation, more like irresistible opportunity. So much action, so much satisfaction. The dreaded Al-Aqsa TV will no longer threaten Israel, and a bunch of preschools and other institutions have the same fate. Details from newspapers are sparse, but I recall that a preschool in East Jerusalem was closed for the alleged Hamas connections.

      Moreover, those institutions, be their TV stations or preschools, do not have “Hamas” on their stationary, so the Hamasnicity is determined by IDF and Shin Beth, perhaps after the fact after the analysis of the confiscated computers and documents. This is labor intensive, so IDF will have to call reserves. Action! Joy! Outpouring energy, the feel of solidarity, those are great times.

      Reply to Comment
      • A battle over labels, accepted or forced, made into a war in which, on all sides, individuals failing to perform solidarity acts are punished.

        Reply to Comment
    2. shachalnur

      Israel,PA and Hamas are taking advantage of the current situation.

      The current situation in Iraq ,that is.

      ISIS’ surge in Iraq and the handling of this “kidnapping” are related.

      Read Yossi Melman in Jerusalempost today “Battling the rumours”,where he complains about the difficulties being caused by (unfounded) rumours.

      Then go to his twitter account and look at what kind of total rubbish he tweeted about Iraq today.

      About Bagdad falling,Embassies being shelled,Maliki fled,Iran forces being killed all over the place.

      Even Anshell Pfeffer was shocked.

      Right now nothing is what it seems,and for very good reasons.

      Reacting to and believing you understand what the MSM and government sources throw at you right now is Pigeon Superstition.

      The real war is invisible,the visible war is an illusion.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Danny

      Poor Israel, again under the delusion that it has any sort of control over Hamas, when in fact Hamas is ALWAYS the one who calls the shots – even when they are seemingly under the boot. Again we hear calls to “let the IDF win!” and “destroy Hamas!”, etc etc etc.

      Here’s the thing about Hamas – they are the ONLY game in town; Fatah doesn’t even hold a candle to them. Hamas’ strength comes from the grass roots, hence Israel’s complete inability to “destroy” them, as that genius Mofaz suggested today. The only way to destroy Hamas is to destroy the Palestinian people, and that’s something Israel will never be able to do.

      Israel will continue to vent its frustrations against Hamas until they become satiated with their pound of flesh. Then they will negotiate a prisoner’s release in exchange for the 3 yeshiva boys. Because once the emotions fade, common sense takes over (even Netanyahu has some).

      Reply to Comment
      • Samuel

        I agree totally. Hamas cannot be destroyed. But by the same token, Israel cannot and will not be destroyed either.

        The real question is which side will tire first? If we would, it would be our death. If they (Hamas) will, as they will. Then there will be peace and everybody in the Middle East will end up with a better life.

        Anybody wants a prize for guessing who will tire first?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Bar

      Israel may be concerned that Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria’s Palestinian areas from the PA, just as they did in Gaza. It makes sense that it would take steps to avoid that outcome (apparently Palestinian voters admire kidnappings and killings of Israelis, and this kidnapping was timed right after the joint government was announced and with elections to be announced soon). After all, having Hamas rule in this area would mean that you’d get rockets fired at central Israel.

      Besides, not to worry, all the prisoners will be traded back. Israel is collecting the people it will need to trade for the boys.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ginger Eis

      Dear Mr. Haggai Matar, this specific analysis is fatally flawed because you failed to factor key known variables in the analytical process: (a) the terrorists have a 7-hrs lead. That’s HUGE; (b) the victims are minors (from the Yeshiva!), (c) the IDF does not know exactly where the kids are being held and the specific individuals holding them and (d) the trauma of the Gilad Shalit years of torture and near death experience. The goals of counter-terrorism operations are not just to rescue, but more importantly to prevent (future terrorism), disrupt and destroy terror organizations and severely deter future terrorist. The IDF would indeed be mediocre if its goal in the instant case is just to rescue the kidnapped boys. For obvious heavy weighing reasons of life and death, public safety and economic stability, neither the PA nor Israel wants another Gaza in Judea & Samaria. Both parties have uncompromisable interests in seeing the demise of Hamas and its operatives. A better opportunity than the current one, has not presented itself before. It is a good cause which Israel is open about and there is nothing cynical about it. Given the age of the victims and the years of torturous near death experience of Gilad Shalit at the hands of the barbarians, it is unthinkable to think that the massive search will end before the boys are found alive (or, G-d forbid, dead). On the contrary, the IDF will continue to gradually tighten the noose to the point of literal suffocation until the terrorists give up the boys or meet certain death. Not even the Muqata in Ramallah will be immune from the search and the PA will have no choice but to cooperate. To the innocent Palestinians in all of this, it might seem like collective punishment, but if it indeed is one, it surely is one that is humanly unavoidable and thus legally justified. The kids must be found – come what may!

      Reply to Comment
    6. Matt

      Shin bet has dogs, gigs, informants everywhere in the West Bank so it is either unrelated or a highly organized operation of a compartmentalize cell in the, the West Bank of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Hamas being much larger informant network which leads one to think it is a smaller Islamic Jihad cell, as no intelligence has turned up leading to a release or claim of who is behind it. It is more the former of Islamic Jihad.

      Reply to Comment
    7. JG

      The rightwinger Israel government ist just using this kid incident to spread it’s dictatorship terror regime over the Westbank, spreading fear and anger, so that the Palestinians react and they can let their hasbarian army of the hook to tell how bad the Palestinians are.
      Even a trained chimp sees that.

      Reply to Comment
    8. IlonJ

      “Even a trained chimp sees that.”

      You mean someone like you, JG?

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        Hey look, a cockroach that can type…

        Reply to Comment
    9. IlonJ

      Better than a trained chimp like you JG.

      At least cockroaches are survivors. Chimps like you? Not so much. You dimwit.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ismail

      Cockroaches? Chimps? C’mon, fellas. The general level of analysis featured on this site is superior to that found in most of the mainstream media. We owe the producers of this stuff a bit of respect. Silly schoolyard outbursts are disrespectful to 972’s writers and the vast majority of its commenters.

      Anyway, if you’re determined to go with invective, please keep it original, funny and/or literate, not puerile or oafish.

      You’re welcome.

      Reply to Comment