As the military operation to find the three kidnapped teens enters its tenth day, the Israeli press Sunday touts the IDF’s search efforts and its diligent “no stone unturned” approach – a characterization equally suited to the papers’ extensive coverage of all developments political, diplomatic, and military in the abduction case.
Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, and Haaretz report on the “meter-by-meter” sweeps outside of Hebron, where most of the soldiers are stationed, despite a distinct lack of intelligence leads.
“We still haven’t received the ‘golden information’ that will push the investigation forward,” Col. Eliezer Toledano of the elite paratroopers unit said, according to Yedioth. “There is a competition between the soldiers to find any hints that will help locate the abductees, and we are working to cull intelligence from the field, and looking for anything that can help, like footprints, clothes, a kippah, anything.”
In the process, pools have been drained, and caves, wells and springs are being carefully examined for evidence, he said.
“Troops are leaving no stone unturned, and that’s not a figure of speech,” a senior officer told Israel Hayom.
Israel Hayom also quotes Toledano ranking the IDF’s priorities in the West Bank: “Our most important mission is locating the kidnapped [teens]. Our second mission is locating the kidnappers, and the third – striking a blow to the terror organizations headed by Hamas.”
Over in Haaretz, the paper’s Amos Harel attempts to dispel rumors about the nature and scope of the operation.
“It isn’t a war, despite the footage from the arrests and the dramatic soundtracks on TV, painted in shades of green from the night vision goggles, [which] are liable to mislead viewers,” he writes.
A visit with the paratroopers convinced him that the operation was conducted “responsibly and with restraint.”
“But such a massive entrance — so rare in past years — of troops into the field led to more local clashes,” including ones that claimed the lives of Palestinian youths hurling stones at soldiers, he writes. Harel urges Israel to take into consideration two upcoming events – the beginning of Ramadan, and the end of the school year in the West Bank on June 30. “The summer vacation will bring hundreds of thousands of students to the streets and will increase the friction for IDF soldiers entering cities and villages in the PA-controlled areas,” he warns.
Haaretz leads with an interview with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn the deaths of two Palestinian teens killed during Operation Brother’s Keeper.
“I said the kidnapping was a crime, but does that justify the killing of Palestinian youths in cold blood?” Abbas said furiously, according to the paper. The PA president said the Palestinians were “frustrated” due to the IDF’s ongoing operation in the West Bank, stating that “it’s as if the Israelis are people, and the Palestinians are not.”
“We don’t want terror, and we don’t want war. We want peace,” he added.
The PA president also responded angrily to rumors that Palestinian entry to Israel during the upcoming Ramadan holiday would be compromised due to the security restrictions in the West Bank.
“Whoever wants to punish people during Ramadan, and whoever kills people during Ramadan, does not want peace,” he said.
All the papers also briefly cover Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s threat to expel UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, on allegations that the latter had sought to transfer funds to Hamas – charges denied by Serry.
Both Haaretz and Israel Hayom address Israeli-Arab MK Hanin Zoabi’s comments to Channel 2, during which she called Abbas a “traitor to the Palestinian people” for coordinating security efforts with Israel; referred to Israel as “terrorists” for the West Bank operation; and reiterated her stance that the kidnappers should not be classified as terrorists.
Israel Hayom quotes a PA official who refers to Zoabi as a “populist demagogue who reached the lowest order,” and “a wretched person,” worthy of pity — proving that the MK managed to raise not only Israeli ire with her remarks.
“We do not acknowledge her statements, since she is not worth a response or acknowledgement… She was never a welcome guest among the Palestinians and never will be. Even her ‘darlings’ in Hamas view her as a collaborator and nothing more,” he said.
Haaretz dedicates its editorial to Zoabi, rushing to her defense and decrying the criticism of her statements, which, it claimed, merely mask Israeli intolerance and the limits on free speech. Zoabi is “the mirror reflecting the racist face of Israel and its intolerance toward the state’s Arab minority,” it writes.
“One may — must even — argue with Zoabi over whether the kidnappers of the three, unarmed teens are terrorists or, as she claims, victims of the occupation. But democracy rests on the right to annoy, to voice unexpected opinions, to arouse opposition and disagreement — even in times of emergency … Instead of arguing with Zoabi’s position and questioning whether she represents Israel’s Arab community, the right prefers to sacrifice civil liberties. And none of the politicians, from the president and the prime minister on down, has stood up to defend her right of free expression.”