As the dramatic saga of three kidnapped Israeli teens drags into another day, the front pages of the Hebrew dailies feature the statements of an unlikely figure, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Haaretz’s front page headline summarizes his remarks: “Abbas confronts Hamas: The youths’ kidnappers are destroying the Palestinian Authority, they must be returned to Israel.” Abbas called on the “settler youths” to be returned to their families and said, “Those who took this action want to see us destroyed.” Hamas didn’t like the statement too much and the paper quotes a Hamas official comparing Abbas to the IDF spokesperson.
Israel Hayom’s front page has a similar headline, “Abbas: Hamas is trying to destroy us.” The paper can’t resist gloating and writes next to the headline, “Does he finally get it?” While the paper calls the statement a “surprise,” it also quotes a none-too-impressed reaction from Netanyahu’s office. Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office told the paper, “Abbas’s actions will be judged by the PA’s efforts to return the boys home safely, but the real test is if he cancels the agreement with Hamas.”
Yedioth Ahronoth leaves Abbas’s statements off its front page and instead keeps the anguish of the teens’ parents front and center. Police met with the parents yesterday and played back for them the recording of the emergency call that one of teens made to police (and which the police sat on for hours). The parents said they heard one of the boys clearly whisper, “They’ve kidnapped me.” The paper reports that Interior Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino have ordered an investigation into why the police mishandled the call.
But that’s not the only problem police are having right now. They also published on their website pictures of the investigation into the burnt out car that is believed to be key piece of evidence in the search. While that sounds innocuous, it violated a gag order on publishing pictures about certain aspects of the investigation. Yedioth reports the most maddening part of the whole story is that the police are the ones who requested the gag order in the first place.
The IDF, meanwhile, is continuing its extensive search throughout the West Bank. Israel Hayom reports Israel arrested 60 people on Wednesday, and 53 of those rounded up were terrorists who were released in the Gilad Shalit deal. A security source told the paper, “According to our information, these terrorists are not fulfilling the conditions for release set for them. Israel will now set into motion the legal mechanisms to hold them accountable and return them to serve significant prison terms.”
Yedioth looks back a few weeks and thinks it found a clue as to how Israel could have known about the kidnappings in advance. The paper points to a speech that Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas, made a few weeks ago in Damascus in which he said, “Hamas heroes know how to free prisoners.” The paper writes that Mashaal was speaking about a letter he received from Hasan Salameh, who is currently serving a life sentence in Israel for dispatching suicide bombers to Israel. According to the paper, IDF sources consider this a “green light” for the kidnappings.
Haaretz reports that Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of the settlement Kiryat Arba, has another theory as to what caused the kidnappings: “Anti-Jewish” legislation passed by the Knesset. Rabbi Lior wrote on his Facebook page: “If we think that troubles come by chance and not because of our actions, the Blessed Holy One will punish us for having such thoughts…There have been new laws whose common denominator is the undermining of the Jewish quality of our public life.” Haaretz points out that Lior once said that Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein is as “holy as the martyrs who died in the Holocaust.”
While a rabbi is making extreme statements on the right, on the left Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi made an extreme statement of her own and has now been assigned round-the-clock protection. Israel Hayom reports that the Knesset has upped her security after she said the kidnappers of the boys are not terrorists. The paper also reports that Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog wrote Zoabi, urging her to apologize and said, “These statements hurt peace and co-existence as much as any price tag attack.”
Thoughts on it all
Commentators were very busy in Thursday’s editions trying to provide some insight on the current situation. Israel Hayom columnist Itzik Saban writes that “there’s enough blame to go around.” While he readily admits that the police have failed in their duty, the IDF and the Shin Bet have also failed to locate the missing youths. He faults the Shin Bet for failing to provide any specific warning about the kidnapping and the IDF for being in the field for six days with nothing to show for it.
While Saban focuses on how Israel is failing now, Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit writes how Israel failed up until now. He references Ariel Sharon, who refused to retreat under fire, and how Israel wouldn’t enter a peace process unless there were seven days of quiet. In facr, Shavit writes, Israel got seven years of quiet. Shavit credits the combination of Abbas, former PA prim,e minister Salam Fayyad, the IDF, the Shin Bet, and the Palestinian security services working together to “silence the violence from the east.” But Israel let those years slip through its fingers by failing to make peace, and there’s no certainty that Israel will get an eighth year. He closes by saying, “If we’re lucky to receive another small piece of quiet — we must hurry and take full advantage of it.”