Left-wing politicians on Sunday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s blaming the Palestinian Authority for the kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers, and urged cooperation between both sides to resolve the situation.
In his first statement on the situation on Saturday night, Netanyahu said Israel held PA President Abbas along with the Palestinian Authority “responsible for all attacks against Israel that originate from their territory, whether this is Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] or the Gaza Strip.”
On Sunday morning, the prime minister specified that Hamas was behind the abduction of yeshiva students Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, who were kidnapped while hitchhiking south of Jerusalem Thursday night.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday, in an apparent reference to Netanyahu’s casting of blame: “This is not the time for recriminations, but [rather] for responsibility, discretion, and focus on the most important task of all.” Herzog emphasized Israeli forces must continue “security and intelligence cooperation with the Palestinian Authority to locate the boys and ensure they are returned to their families healthy and in one piece.”
Meretz MK Zahava Gal-on similarly castigated the prime minister’s remarks.
“Netanyahu’s first statements places the responsibility on the Palestinian Authority,” she told the Ynet news website. “I think it is unwise, politically, security-wise, and operationally. What was the purpose? Pick up the phone to Abu Mazen [Abbas] and check what can be done.”
Both Gal-on and Herzog made their statements before the Hamas ties to the incident were publicly announced.
Israel has been conducting the search for the teens in the West Bank in concert with Palestinian Authority security forces, with sources on both sides reporting positive cooperation. However, Netanyahu’s blaming of the PA for complicity in the kidnapping has angered some in Ramallah, according to Palestinian sources.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, speaking outside the Frenkel home in Nof Ayalon, echoed Netanyahu’s statements on Sunday.
“The abduction of the three teenage boys is the direct result of the hateful incitement that comes out daily from the Palestinian authority,” he said. “Israel holds Palestinian President Abbas directly responsible for the three boys. We are doing and will do everything possible to return the boys to their families.”
But PA official Qadoura Fares said it was Israeli policies, including settlement construction, that were directly responsible for the kidnappings.
“I know that the kidnapping caused suffering, a very, very difficult situation for them, their families, and Israeli society, but you always need to look at both sides,” he told Ynet. “The atmosphere that the Israeli government caused with failed and extremist policies will only lead to incidents and cases like these. The Israeli public must put their own house in order. Building more in the settlements, killing more Palestinians, and ignoring the political process — it won’t help anybody.”