By arresting Hamas-affiliated journalists, charity workers and parliament members, Israel is going way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens.
Someone’s gotta say it: what Israel has been doing in the West Bank over the past several days goes way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens. It is a military and political attack on Hamas intended on serving the government’s agenda, with no connection to the attempts to find the teens, and no clear connection between Hamas and the kidnapping.
Let me clarify: I am sure that the army is making efforts to find the three, and I hope they are found and returned, safe and sound, as soon as possible. But this does not justify the cynical exploitation of the circumstances for other political goals entirely.
Over the last couple of days, the army’s operations have extended into Bethlehem and Nablus – the heart of Area A (where the Palestinian Authority is in charge of both security and civil matters). The army arrested members of Hamas’ charity organization, as well as journalists affiliated with Hamas and the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who is a member of the party. A total of 200 people. Computers and weapons were also confiscated. And all this while the search after the teenagers is focused on the Hebron area, which is under closure. There is no doubt that many of these operations are unrelated to the teens, and that no one in the army thinks that charity workers, journalists or parliamentarians know where they are.
While military operations grow, both Israel’s military and political leadership are undergoing a certain change. If, during the first two days, the rhetoric included talks of a general search for the teens and blaming the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, we now see a clear focus on Hamas. Anonymous senior officers told the media that the goal of the operation in the West Bank is focused on “all things green,” and that it will last even after the search for the teens is over. Furthermore, we are hearing more and more positive statements regarding the cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (without mentioning that Hamas is part of its government) as well as that of Abbas.
We must put these things in context: last week, Netanyahu found himself a bind. He failed miserably in his attempt to mobilize the world against the new Palestinian technocratic government. The same government that won universal support, and even received a “launch present” from the EU in the sum of millions of euros. After years of division within the Palestinian leadership, and political division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (a division Israel itself laid the foundation for), all of a sudden a renewed PLO and an unarmed, united Palestinian struggle focusing on international pressure on Israel became a distinct possibility.
And Netanyahu couldn’t do a thing about it. He, who released endless statements, could neither boycott the new Palestinian Authority, nor send thousands of soldiers into the heart of Area A in order to arrest Hamas parliament members for nothing. Then came the kidnapping, and all of a sudden the rules of the game changed. All of a sudden we can attack Hamas as much as we want, where we want, how we want, and no one in Israel or around the world can oppose us. And all of a sudden we can divide the Palestinians once more by labeling the PA and Abbas Israel’s favorite collaborators, while labeling Hamas the biggest threat that must be uprooted.
This, despite the fact that Hamas never claimed responsibility for the attack, that its representatives in the West Bank have not responded to the incident, or that carrying out a kidnapping at a time like this would mean political suicide for the organization. It must be remembered that Hamas was pushed into joining the PA after it lost much of its support in the Arab world, and suffered from the strengthening of Egypt’s blockade on Gaza. There was no other way out. It received a life preserver in the form of a new government, as well as the possibility of elections and international recognition.
And then came the kidnapping. There are those who say that Hamas, and each of its members, are a legitimate target for Israel. I believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization that attacks and kills Israeli citizens without justification. But Hamas is also a political party that received a majority of the votes in the last election that took place in the occupied territories. It is also comprises an array of charity groups that have no connection to terror. It is also a political group that has changed its positions over the last years and is now willing to negotiate with Israel. As my colleague Noam Sheizaf previously said: if the Israeli government was truly interested in peace, Palestinian reconciliation would have presented a wonderful opportunity.
But even those who support full-scale attacks on Hamas must also know that this current attack is a cynical exploitation that seeks achieve other aims that have nothing to do with the release of the teenagers. It is sad that Netanyahu has chosen this path, rather than investing all efforts in retrieving them.
Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.
Read more on the West Bank kidnapping:
Sheizaf: Reward activism and diplomacy, not violence
Derfner: The kidnapping is indefensible – but Israel helped provoke it
Zonszein: Israelis aren’t the only ones facing national tragedy