On Thursday, June 12, 2014, three Israeli high school students went to the Gush Etzion junction to hitchhike home. They never got there. Friday morning, the Israeli Defense Forces and Israel’s Shin Bet (internal intelligence) mobilized to find the students, Eyal Yifrah, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gil-Ad Shear, 16. Frenkel is a dual American citizen.
On Friday, the burned-out hull of a Hyundai automobile was found just outside of Hebron. Security forces believe the vehicle was used in the kidnapping of the students.
Israel is a small country, both in size and population, and Israelis often think of themselves as an extended family more than a country. A tragedy like this strikes them as if their own children were taken. The inescapable conclusion, of course, is that all their children are vulnerable.
The kidnapping comes on the heels of the unity government created between Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization and the terrorist Organization Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which rules Gaza with an iron fist.
The mothers of the three missing Israeli teenagers, from left to right, Rachel Frenkel, mother of Naftali Frenkel, Iris Yifrah, mother of Eyal Yifrah and Bat Galim Shaar, mother of Gilad Shaar, embrace in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Nof Ayalon, where Frenkel family live, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Israeli security forces searched the West Bank looking for three missing Israeli teenagers who they fear have been abducted by Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Tomer Appelbaum)
Israel strongly objected to Fatah joining forces with terrorists that openly advocate Israel’s destruction. The union gives Hamas greater access to the area close to Israel’s heartland when Hamas made it indelibly clear that its union with Fatah would neither change its objectives nor its tactics.
Israel might have been able to exert some leverage on Fatah had it received support from the Obama Administration’s State Department. But Secretary of State John Kerry had openly displayed an animus toward Israel, blaming them for the failed peace negotiations that nearly all observers knew were doomed from their inception.
The State Department could not resist embracing Abbas’ terrorist union, not only stabbing Israel in the back but twisting the knife. The kidnappings or some other grotesque act of terror was then only a matter of time.
On June 15, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu articulated what many Israelis had come to believe, “Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas – the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) made a unity government with; this has severe repercussions.”
Two individuals from the Hebron area, who are linked to Hamas, have been missing since Friday. Israel is concentrating its search in the area and on these individuals.
Meanwhile, in a display of behavior as grotesque as the mindset that would use the kidnapping of children as a tactic of war, Arabs on the West Bank are celebrating the kidnappings. They are passing out sweets, a traditional celebratory act, and setting off firecrackers.
In Gaza, guns are being fired into the air as the sweets are being passed out. Throughout the Arab territories motorists are honking horns to show that they support the kidnappings.
The official Palestinian Authority media is comparing the kidnapped children to captured vermin. In English, Abbas is condemning the act, while his media send his people a diametrically opposite message.
The Palestinian Authority is denying any responsibility for the act as it occurred in Area C, a West Bank area still under the military control of Israel. Yet, there is no doubt that the plot itself and its perpetrators emanated from areas under Fatah control, areas now open to Hamas.
As Abbas’ official media was characterizing the kidnapped children as vermin, his wife was undergoing surgery in an upscale, private hospital in Israel. It was to the Apartheid Israel — as the American and European media describe it — where even Hamas’ founder sent his granddaughter for emergency medical treatment. The Israeli taxpayer footed the bill for the family that orchestrates the firing of rockets to kill and maim Israeli children.
The kidnappings came after dozens of unsuccessful attempts at kidnapping soldiers by Hamas, the violent Islamic Jihad, and even Fatah itself. Hamas directly trains its terrorists in the tactics of kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Now, the unity government makes that tactic more likely to be successful.
Israel too must bear responsibility for the kidnapping. It has made its citizens high-value targets in lopsided prisoner exchanges like the one involving Gilad Shalit — where one captured Israeli soldier was exchanged for hundreds of terrorists. Israel has even exchanged live Arab prisoners for the remains of dead Israelis, prompting an Arab resident of Qalqilya to kill an Israeli colleague, Tomer Hazan, and offer to exchange his corpse for a family member held in an Israeli jail.
Such kidnappings have the support of the Arab street on the West Bank and in Gaza. Not only have the celebrations of the kidnapping and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) official media characterizations of the victims shown this, but as Israeli troops and police have searched for the kidnapped children, they have been met by stones thrown like hail to obstruct their work.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Ronen Zvulun, Pool)
Israelis I spoke with voice concern that the PA security services that are now offering support to help find the victims are more likely to erase evidence than actually help. After all, members of the PA security service have been involved in acts of terror and attempted kidnappings.
Hamas is using its television station to ask all Palestinians to erase any security tapes and otherwise obstruct the Israelis in their search to find the children.
The village of Qalqilya, where Tomer Hazan was killed, has been the scene of numerous acts of terror. Ofra Moses, her small children, and a physician named Daniel Yaakovi were burned alive. Qalqilya is known as the “Paradise Hotel” as it is the starting point for suicide bombers on their way to Israel. Its residents provide the infrastructure for terrorism.
At what point can a nation state committed to the rule of law ignore the killing and maiming of its citizens perpetrated by an active collective terrorist network supported by a town? Now, the same issue is being raised in Israel with regard to the Palestinian populace’s active support for terrorism that goes far beyond expression but to active assistance and obstruction.
There is a call for erasing the houses of terrorists, confiscating their property, and in a world where family allegiance is prominent, deporting terrorist families. Qalqilya has been the springboard for such discussions. The behavior of the Palestinians in this tragic event will further underpin those sentiments.
Whatever the outcome of such conversations, they will escalate a deteriorating situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is the consequence of an American administration that is seemingly ignorant that it is enabling terrorists to acquire greater tactical advantage in a struggle they intend to continue.
Abraham H. Miller is a professor emeritus of political science, University of Cincinnati. He also served on the faculty of the University of California, Davis and the University of Illinois, Urbana.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.