The Israeli operation in the West Bank to locate the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped last Thursday amounts to terrorism, Balad MK Hanin Zoabi said Saturday, in an interview filled with provocative statements.
Four days after she prompted a political storm for asserting that the abduction did not constitute terrorism, Zoabi on Saturday said she wasn’t sure the kidnapping had taken place at all, claimed Israel wasn’t so much hunting for the trio as seeking to kill Palestinians, and accused the Palestinian Authority of treason in cooperating with Israel in the operation to find the Israeli youths.
In a fiery interview on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press,” Zoabi also charged that Israelis were “ignoring the context of the occupation” in which the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 occurred last week.
“Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped, but the two Palestinian kids who were killed [on Friday] were not even mentioned [in your broadcast]? The blood of Jews is more precious than the blood of Palestinians?” Zoabi said. (A 14-year-old and a 22-year-old were reported killed, with Israeli military officials saying soldiers were attacked with stones and patrol bombs and believed their lives were in danger when they opened fire.)
The Knesset member also reiterated her assessment, first delivered earlier this week, that the kidnapping of the three Israelis youths did not constitute terrorism. “I don’t agree with the abduction, but I don’t think the abductors are terrorists because I’m looking at the macro [the big picture], at the context of the occupation,” she said.
Zoabi then accused the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of using the kidnapping as a pretense to “invade the West Bank” and “kill Palestinians.”
“Netanyahu is not looking for those boys, he’s busy invading the West Bank and killing Palestinians. The main goal of the operation is to destroy Hamas, not to find the boys,” she charged.
“The context of this operation is the Israeli occupation and [Israeli] terror,” she went on. But “the only way to end this kidnapping is to release Palestinian prisoners,” she said
Zoabi proceeded to question whether the kidnapping had actually taken place, asserting that no one really knew for sure that it had.
Turning her attention to the condemnation of the kidnapping issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Arab League on Wednesday, the Balad MK said that the PA’s security cooperation with Israel to search for the teenagers amounted to treason and accused Abbas of trying to strengthen his position within the authority.
The Israeli government has pointed the finger at Hamas for the kidnapping and said it holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for their fate. Hamas has praised the kidnapping without claiming responsibility.
Israeli politicians from the right and center roundly slammed Zoabi, some calling for her to be removed from her post and prosecuted, after she said on Tuesday that the Palestinian kidnappers of three Israeli teens were “not terrorists.”
“Not only are the kidnappers terrorists, but so is Hanin Zoabi,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Facebook page. “The sentence of the kidnappers and that of Zoabi, who is inciting and encouraging abductions, must be the same.”
Zoabi had said on Tel Aviv Radio that the kidnappers “are not terrorists; they are people who do not see any way of changing their situation and they have to resort to these measures until Israel sobers up a bit, until the citizens of Israel and the public sober up and relate to the suffering of others.”
Zoabi later clarified in an interview on Israel Radio that she does “not support the kidnappers, but [kidnapping] is the result of frustration.”
“You ask about mothers, ask me about the mothers of prisoners, ask about prisoners who are being held without trial, without being guilty,” she said.
Hamas came to Zoabi’s defense after the remarks.
Right-wing politicians called for Zoabi to lose her position in the Knesset.
“Hanin Zoabi continues her consistent practice: to support terrorists and prove that she does not deserve to be a citizen of the State of Israel, let alone an MK,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said in a statement posted to Facebook. “She is a reward for terror within the Knesset, a situation that would not be accepted in any other democratic state in the world.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said her comments constituted incitement and fellow Likud MK Ofir Akunis said he would renew his efforts, unsuccessful in the last Knesset, to have Zoabi expelled from parliament.
MK Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.”
MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) said he intended to remove Zoabi from her parliament position because “her positions seem to be closer to the terrorists, so she should be with them rather than in the Israeli Knesset.”
From the political center, Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie condemned Zoabi’s remarks and called her a hypocrite.
“How can you, an MK in the Knesset of the State of Israel, dare come to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and and Gender Equality and talk about human rights?” she said. “Shame on you. This is not how you talk when innocent children are kidnapped by terrorists. You do not deserve to be an MK… Our children also have human rights.”
Hatnua MK Elazar Stern also condemned the remarks, but noted that he is sure that she does not represent the position of Arab Israelis.
Yifrach, Fraenkel, and Shaar were kidnapped late on the night of June 12 south of Jerusalem. They were last seen at a hitchhiking post in the Etzion bloc at around 10 p.m..
Since the kidnapping Israel has been conducting a massive manhunt in the West Bank and has arrested 380 Palestinians, the majority Hamas members.
MKs sought to bar Zoabi from running for the Knesset in the 2013 elections, in part because she participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla that sought to break Israel’s security blockade on Gaza, but they were overruled by the Supreme Court.