Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will fly to Paris Thursday to discuss the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and the Palestinian unity government with his US and French counterparts.
Ahead of his diplomatic trip to France, Liberman has been conducting rounds of calls with counterparts around the world, thanking them for their condemnations of the kidnapping and seeking their support for Israel’s response.
In Paris, Liberman is scheduled to hold talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Both diplomats have condemned the kidnapping of the three teens from a hitching post south of Jerusalem, while also expressing concern over Israel’s West Bank operation in the wake of the abduction.
On Tuesday, Fabius condemned the alleged kidnappings, but implored Israel to “respect international law… and use proportional force” in its arrests.
Kerry said the US “strongly condemns” the kidnapping in a June 15 statement, also indicating that the US believes Hamas is responsible. Last Wednesday, the White House called for restraint from both sides as Israel carried out a massive security operation in the West Bank.
While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly condemned the kidnapping, Israel has stated that in addition to recovering the teens, its aimed to significantly weaken Hamas, which it blames for the abduction, and break up the Palestinian unity government Abbas and the Gaza terrorist organization formed three weeks ago.
The US and Europe have both said they will work with the unity government, noting that Abbas has promised the administration will abide by PA agreements with Israel, even if Hamas has not disavowed violence.
Earlier this week, Liberman told foreign ministers from Italy, Australia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Cyprus that “they hold important positions in the global war on terror, as radical Islam does not distinguish between Western countries and their goals in kidnapping the teens in the Etzion bloc are the same as their goals in carrying out attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Brussels and elsewhere,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
Liberman added in his phone calls that there can be no justification for the kidnappings and everybody bears the responsibility to condemn such actions and the organizations behind them.
Since Operation Brother’s Keeper was launched to locate three kidnapped teens nearly two weeks ago, the IDF has arrested almost 400 Palestinians in the West Bank, most of them members of the Hamas movement.
According to Israeli media reports, among 17 people arrested overnight Tuesday were two Palestinian lawmakers, Ibrahim Tayyub and Khaled Dweik. The Palestinian Ma’an news agency identified the Palestinian MPs as Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zaboun.
Despite 13 days of intensive searches, IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said Tuesday that the military had yet to have a breakthrough in locating Eyal Yfrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, all abducted on June 12.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz acknowledged Tuesday that the lack of progress does not bode well for the prospect of finding the teens alive, and Israel’s cabinet voted to begin to scale back operations in the West Bank as military officials admitted the campaign against Hamas was drawing to a close in its present form.