The IDF is carrying out Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank, searching for the three missing Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer, who were abducted by Hamas operatives last week. Their mission was made more difficult because the police ignored a plea for help that one of the boys managed to whisper into his cell-phone saying “we’re being kidnapped.” That was at 10.30 pm, but the police officer in charge thought it was a prank and ignored it. It was only revealed 5 hours later when the parents of one of the boys went to the police station to report their son missing. That policeman should be fired. This unfortunate error, of not taking every warning seriously, gave the kidnappers 5 hours start over the searchers. But it was not enough time to take the boys over any border, they must still be in the West Bank, and may be in the vicinity of Hebron, hidden in an underground bunker.
Around the country and the world there have been prayer services to “Bring our Boys Home.” We have barely survived all our prayers, we only survived when we took up the gun – “praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition.” So the Operation continues. The Israeli Government is taking the opportunity to attack Hamas in the West Bank, not only because Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping (the Government has evidence that it hasn’t revealed so far) but because Hamas is a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel and the killing and kidnapping of Israeli civilians, including children. During this search the IDF has arrested over 300 mostly Hamas operatives and have discovered arms caches and arms factories. The strategy is that by making this kidnapping so costly to Hamas they will be forced to give back the boys, or they will have bargaining chips to exchange for the boys.
The IDF is treading a fine line, they want to find the boys, but they don’t want to be brutal in the process or to kill Palestinians in revenge because this could set of an explosion, another intifada that would be in nobody’s interests, except the terrorists. There have been several cases of violent demonstrations against the IDF by youths throwing stones and Molotov cocktails as well as shooting. One 15 year old boy was shot after attacking IDF soldiers. In fact by arresting Hamas leaders, Israel is helping the Fatah leadership of the PA, because Hamas is their enemy too. The PA security services are supposedly cooperating with the IDF, although not themselves carrying out arrests.
There has been a controversy regarding the response of Pres. Abbas of the PA to this situation. At first he made no mention of the kidnapping, but then at the meeting of the Islamic States in Saudi Arabia last week he made a statement against the kidnapping and supporting the need for the PA to cooperate with the IDF and said that the boys are “humans” and should be released. The fact that he made this statement in that setting was regarded by some as very brave and important. Yet, PM Netanyahu gave the statement only a luke warm response, because as he said, if the PA wants to be taken seriously they should cut their ties to Hamas and dissolve the Unity Government. Hamas, of course, strongly criticized Fatah for “cooperating with the enemy.”
Analysts of Palestinian public opinion say that the Palestinian street supports the kidnapping, seeing it as equivalent to Israel arresting their boys and putting them in prison, although they forget the crimes they commited and the courts that judged them. But, analysts also say that this support is passive, they generally don’t want an escalation of the situation or a third intifada. Some pro-Palestinian comments, including those from MK Hanan Zoabi, who said it wasn’t a kidnapping at all, and the UN that has effectively dismissed the kidnapping but criticized the IDF action.
Many Western liberals and the media dismiss the kidnappings because they characterize the boys as “settlers”, even though they are mere teenagers. But there is some irony in this. The area where the kidnapping occured and where two of the boys live is the Etzion bloc, an area south of Jerusalem that was bought by the JNF in the 1920s and on which three kibbutzim were established, including Kfar Etzion, that fluourished in the 1930s-40s. In 1948 the Arabs captured the whole area and massacred the inhabitants and razed the settlements to the ground, even destroying all the orchards and uprooting all trees (only one large one remained). This area was recaptured by the IDF in 1967 and resettled by the children of the original settlers and will remain part of Israel in whatever settlement or outcome ensues. So the people there are indeed settlers, but they live on Jewish land!
Meanwhile the boys are still missing and the search goes on. The hope is that they are still alive because the terrorists want to use them to exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This shows the futility of releasing 1,000 prisoners for one Israeli, Gilad Schalit, as PM Netanyahu did, because it only encourages kidnapping. The Knesset has now passed a law restricting the ability of the Government to release prisoners who have been convicted of security offences and murder. So that this should prevent a further such travesty. Also, there is now a free App named the “SOS App” developed by an Israeli company NowForce that can allow a GPS trace of all cell phones that have it ( http://sos.nowforce.com/ ). All Israelis are encouraged to download that App. One way or another we will defeat these terrorists.