Photo: Yoav Zitun
IDF forces in Hebron. 'Locating teens in West Bank is possible, but might take long'
Photo: Yoav Zitun
Photo: Ofer Amram
Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland
Photo: Ofer Amram

In missing teens' case, prisoner release debate likely irrelevant

Analysis: If abducted teens are located in West Bank, government will probably favor military option.

It’s not easy writing about the three missing teens, as very little is known right now, and it's possible that the circumstances will change by the time this article is published. Nonetheless, there are three insights which should probably be mentioned right now.



The first is actions taken against abductions. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon noted that in the past 18 months there had been 44 kidnapping attempts, and those are only the attempts the army knows about. The fact that all the attempts to kidnap soldiers failed means that the IDF was very efficient in its mission to prevent soldiers' abductions and succeeded in teaching them not to hitchhike.


In light of this success, the lightheadedness of many citizens living in Judea and Samaria is difficult to comprehend. The three teens who were probably kidnapped left their yeshiva in order to hitchhike in the middle of the night. What are this educational institution's instructions about hitchhiking in general and at night in particular?


It seems that the heads of the community and the principals of its educational institutions are paying too little attention to this concrete danger. This stems from a type of self-confidence combined with a worldview that because this is our land, we should not be afraid and defend ourselves.


This reminds me of the approach in several Judea and Samaria communities which refused at the time to erect a fence around their community, as this demonstrates weakness.


The second insight is the wrong impression that because of our (exaggerated) concern for human life, we rush to free terrorists in exchange for the release of a kidnapped soldier or civilian.


It's important to make a distinction between cases in which the kidnapped were held in Lebanon or Gaza, and cases in which they were held within Israel or in the West Bank. In the first type of cases, and only after it became clear that there was no reliable intelligence information and no proper operational way to release the kidnapped, the Israeli government was indeed forced to give up.


But in all the cases in which there was an operational feasibility to try to release them, including an operation involving a clear risk both to the kidnapped and to the military force, the political echelon decided in favor of a military operation. That's what happened in different incidents in the 1970s (Misgav Am, Ma'alot and the Savoy Hotel attack) and that's what happened in the 1990s too, including the failed attempt to rescue the late Nachshon Wachsman.


If the kidnapped are held in Judea and Samaria and if they are still alive, it will probably be possible to locate them – even if it takes a long time. In such a case, there will likely be an operational feasibility to try to release them, and it's safe to assume that that will indeed be the political decision. The discussion about the price that should be paid in a deal involving the release of terrorists in exchange for hostages is an appropriate discussion, but I estimate that it will not be relevant in this case.


The third insight has to do with our relations with the Palestinian Authority. Following the establishment of the Palestinian unity government (which is in fact a technocratic government supported by Hamas from afar), the Israeli government rushed to declare that it would not talk to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


That's a mistake. The question whether we should talk or not should always relate to the subject and not to the object. In other words, it's possible that we have nothing to talk about with Abbas in regards to a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but it's always good to talk about other things.


We even talk to Hamas in Gaza. Not about a diplomatic solution, but about the regularization of dozens of other important civilian issues. Because it’s important to cooperate with the PA, and the kidnapping incident only emphasizes that, we should not declare that we will not talk to the boss of those we cooperate with.


פרסום ראשון: 06.17.14, 00:25
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