Hugs and thugs
Hebrew media review

Hugs and thugs

A joint appearance by the parents of the kidnap victims tugs heartstrings, but most quill jockeys are more interested in the IDF's widening West Bank operation against Hamas

Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of kidnapped Israeli youth Naftali, speaks to the press outside her house on Tuesday, June 16, 2014. She is flanked by the parents of two other teens kidnapped with her son, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of kidnapped Israeli youth Naftali, speaks to the press outside her house on Tuesday, June 16, 2014. She is flanked by the parents of two other teens kidnapped with her son, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

After a short hiatus of focusing on the Israeli army’s hammer blow against Hamas, headlines return Wednesday to the more emotional aspect of the kidnapping saga, spurred on by a moving joint appeal by the three sets of parents a day earlier. Or so it would seem.

All four papers feature nearly identical pictures of the three mothers hugging in the town of Nof Ayalon on Tuesday, garnished with heartstring-yanking headlines like “Everybody’s children” (Yedioth Ahronoth) and “the hug of three mothers” (Israel Hayom).

But despite the front pages, both tabloids actually give the story of the frantic parents of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frankel little space, instead focusing on harder news. Israel Hayom, for its part, devotes its first four news pages to the storm surrounding statements by MK Hanin Zoabi to the effect that the kidnappers are not terrorists, and to the less savory aspects of Palestinian reactions to the affair.

The paper rounds up all the responses to Zoabi, none of which were supportive, and also gives readers a handy list of the lawmaker’s past infamous statements and actions over the years.

“The Knesset and the attorney general must respond immediately to Zoabi’s statements,” the tabloid’s Haim Shein writes. “Freedom of speech, as is known, is not an absolute right. It doesn’t make sense that in the name of freedom of speech one would be allowed to say things that will agitate and disintegrate society and lead to an outbreak of violence.”

Yedioth Ahronoth devotes a bit more space to the human interest angle, printing an image of the handwritten note on which Naftali Frankel’s mother wrote her address to the media. But the paper’s Yossi Yehoshua quickly reminds readers that there is a mini war raging in the West Bank, noting that the military operation is now something much bigger than catching the kidnappers.

“The army brass is convinced the operation will take a while longer. Whether or not the kidnapped and kidnappers are found, the IDF will use the opportunity for a wide anti-terror operation. Even Ramadan, in another 10 days, isn’t a red line.”

The two broadsheets, Haaretz and Makor Rishon, go newsier on their front pages, with headlines highlighting the growing fear that the three are not still alive (Haaretz) and some taunting against Hamas from a top general (Makor Rishon).

Haaretz sounds the most pessimistic tone, noting that things are not looking good for the three, if history is any indicator.

“In past kidnappings in the West Bank, there are almost no cases where the hostage is kept alive. This is because of the superior intelligence capability of the Shin Bet and the Palestinian security services, which doesn’t make it possible to keep captives alive unless their kidnappers are found and caught quickly. Despite that, at this point there is not any certain information about the fate of the three boys.”

The paper’s Zvi Bar’el notes that the crackdown on Hamas, and a decision to worsen prison conditions for its members who are detained in Israeli prisons in the wake of the kidnapping, could end up backfiring.

“The worsening of prison conditions for jailed Hamas activists as part of the retributive measures taken, aside from its moral aspects, may prove to have a boomerang effect. The solidarity of political prisoners, as demonstrated by the hunger strike of administrative prisoners who were joined by sentenced prisoners, may lead to an insurrection within security prisons which could result in international intervention. International criticism of the new provision allowing forced feeding may grow, possibly leading to charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”

Makor Rishon leads off with a declaration from IDF Central Command head Nitzan Alon that Hamas is feeling the effects of the crackdown, and then moves on to a declaration from former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who was not shy in talking about what he would like to see happen in the West Bank.

“The time has come to call up reserves, turn over every stone in the West Bank and squeeze Hamas,” Mofaz is quoted saying. “If this happened in [Gush] Etzion, it can happen in Jerusalem or Beit Shemesh. … The public is expecting the country to deal a critical blow to terror.”

In Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor calls the operation the largest in the West Bank since Defensive Shield in 2003. “The IDF is putting massive pressure on Hamas,” he writes. “The estimation is that the pressure will ramp up in the coming days as we near Ramadan, yet despite that there is serious doubt if it will result as Israelis hope and convince the kidnappers to end the saga.”

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