The drama and the anguish
Hebrew media review

The drama and the anguish

The kidnapped teens keep the press preoccupied and the pundits look at possible ways to go forward

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The three Israeli teens, from L-R: Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel, 16; and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The three Israeli teens, from L-R: Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel, 16; and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 (photo credit: Courtesy)

One thing is on the minds of the Israeli press and people, and that’s the three missing teens who are believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas Thursday night. But the manner in which the various newspapers address the issue distinguishes them.

The top story for Israel Hayom focuses on the drama: the anguish of the parents whose children are missing. Iris Yifrach, mother of 19-year-old Eyal, is quoted in the paper saying that her son’s disappearance is a form of test by the Almighty, “and I pray that he will release my son Eyal and Gil-ad [Shaar] and Naftali [Frenkel].”

“This is a big test for all of us,” she says. “The Messiah is on his way.”

Rachel Frenkel tells the paper that her family is optimistic about her son’s return and thankful for all the support they have received from friends, neighbors, and the country as a whole.

“We know and are feeling that they’re overturning worlds in order to return the boys home,” she says of the IDF’s operations to find the three teens. “We are grateful to every soldier in the field, every Shin Bet officer, to members of Knesset…. At the same time, we very aware that [Israelis] are tearing at the gates of heaven with prayer for our children and we ask that they continue.”

Yedioth Ahronoth‘s focus is on intelligence, emphasizing that the key to finding the missing boys is good spy work. According to IDF sources quoted in the paper, the group responsible was likely a small, compartmentalized organization that knows the Shin Bet and IDF’s methods well. IDF and Shin Bet sources tell the paper that they believe the kidnapped teens are in the southern West Bank, but don’t rule out the possibility that they were smuggled to another Palestinian city. They said the likelihood that they boys were taken by tunnel to the Gaza Strip or Sinai Peninsula was slim.

In a well-buried, troubling remark, the paper says that contrary to the premise presented by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, “as the hours tick by, the concern grows that the boys are no longer alive.”

For Haaretz, it’s the old-fashioned police work that takes center stage, with the focus of its reporting on the 100 or more arrests made by the IDF in a bid to find the missing boys. According to Haaretz, the IDF arrested two Palestinian women whose husbands are Hamas affiliates and have been missing the past couple of days.

The paper reports that the police are investigating the failure to jump on a emergency telephone call made by one of the teens to the police’s emergency hotline in which he informed the authorities that the three had been kidnapped. Haaretz reports that the officer who took the call summoned two of his colleagues. After a return call was not answered, the three decided it was likely a prank and didn’t follow it up.

In one of the paper’s analyses of the situation, Amos Harel draws parallels between the shooting of the Mizrahi family outside Hebron before Passover and the killing of a Givati soldier in Hebron last fall. Each case, he says, shows the hallmarks of high levels of planning and execution which ensured that all tracks were covered.

As for the issue of what to do going forward, Lior Lotan, a former head of the IDF General Staff’s negotiations unity, writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that the circumstances in the West Bank suggest that the armed forces will locate the missing teens and free them. “But experience in recent years teaches us that terrorist organizations have succeeded in holding onto captives for years without discovery when they deny governments the necessary conditions for carrying out a rescue operation and drag them into a drawn-out, agonizing process of negotiations,” he says.

Lotan calls on the Israeli cabinet to sketch out a negotiations plan now rather than wait for the terrorists’ demands, so that it won’t be like the deal made with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit. “Our thoughts in these difficult days are focused on the kidnapped, and on the illustrious victory of Entebbe,” he writes. “Planning and solidifying a strategy has to already include the lessons of Gaza, Lebanon and Afghanistan.”

Yoav Limor writes in Israel Hayom that after the operation to rescue the teens is over and those responsible are brought to justice (he’s an optimist), “it will be necessary to decide whether to end the episode there or levy a price on Hamas.” He says one option is to strike the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, a move that he acknowledges will likely trigger an escalation of hostilities in the south. His more reasonable option, which he says might garner support from PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is a crackdown on Hamas’s propaganda, financial and political activities in the West Bank.

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