Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday lashed out against those who criticized the teens kidnapped last week for studying at a West Bank seminary and deciding to hitchhike, saying the blame lies solely with those who seek to murder innocents.
Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were abducted while hitchhiking south of Jerusalem Thursday night. The IDF launched a wide-ranging manhunt in the West Bank to locate them.
Liberman said in a statement that “there is nothing more outrageous than blaming these teens or their families that the kidnapping happened because they chose to study at a yeshiva in the Etzion Bloc or because they were forced to hitchhike in a place in which there is no ready public transportation at all times.”
While West Bank settlements are served by Israeli public transportation, the routes are infrequent and settlers often choose to hitchhike out of a sense of ideology.
Liberman said that by that same token, one could blame all victims of terrorism for being the wrong place at the wrong time, such as “those who came seder night [in 2002] to the Park Hotel in Netanya, those sitting having a coffee at Sbarro in Jerusalem [in 2001] or those Americans who were lost in the Twin Towers.”
“In all those cases, and in the current circumstance, the guilty are those whose intention is to kill innocents, and they are those who we must fight to the death,” he said. “Terrorism is terrorism and it doesn’t distinguish between New York, Netanya or the Etzion bloc.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett echoed Liberman’s criticism of those who blame the victims.
“Are the hitchhikers the ones who kidnapped the children?” he said in an address at a Jewish seminary in Kfar Etzion. “Are the hitchhikers guilty of hijacking the plan to Entebbe [in 1976]? The abduction of [IDF soldiers] Goldwasser and Regev? The kidnapping of Gilad Shalit? Are the hitchhikers guilty of killing over 1,000 Israelis?
“We have an enemy that wants to make it impossible to travel freely in the Etzion bloc and also impossible to travel freely in Ramat Aviv.”
Liberman also reiterated his opposition to prisoner releases, commenting that granting freedom to terrorists only encourages their activity.
Every deal in which Israel released terrorists from prison as part of one deal or another, he said, “resulted in Israel losing and terrorist groups gaining.”
“We must not let this trend continue,” he said.
On Sunday, Liberman stated that Israel wouldn’t agree to the early release of Palestinian prisoners under any circumstances in exchange for the three missing teens. His comments came less than a week after a bill banning the release of prisoners serving life sentences in order to stymie the possibility of hostage exchanges passed its first hurdle in the Knesset. Thirty-six lawmakers voted in favor of the proposed legislation and 20 opposed it in a preliminary reading. The bill will now head to committee before advancing to a full Knesset vote at a later date.