In the office of the "rais" in Ramallah, there is an ancient "routine procedure": Every time there is an incident related to the safety of Israelis, including IDF soldiers, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wraps himself in silence until he is strongly shaken by Jerusalem or Washington.
At the same time, however, he discretely gives the green light for unlimited cooperation with all Israeli systems.
This time it took almost 24 hours to shake Abbas. Abduction, even in occupied territories, is a violation of international law. According to tradition he kept silent, but he did send one of his spokesmen to announce that the Palestinian Authority's organizations are already cooperating and hope to find the kidnappers. He had no idea what had happen to them either.
Despite all the bad things people think about him here, there is no argument over the fact that Abbas would like to return the teens to their homes and get rid of the nightmare. He knows that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been disregarding him for a long time now. Washington is suffocating with him, and his popularity in the Palestinian street – if he ever had any – is only sinking.
Are there cries of joy in the West Bank and Gaza? It depends on who you ask. On the street there some joy, especially among the prisoners' families. We didn't see any victory parades, but candy was handed out in Gaza and at Birzeit University ion Saturday without knowing who is responsible for the abduction.
I would say that the joy is limited because of the not so great chance that the incident will develop into negotiations that will lead to the release of Palestinian prisoners and "gestures" from the Israeli side.
This incident, I am told by a Ramallah resident who holds a senior position in the PA organizations, caught Netanyahu and Abbas in the post-anger period of not speaking to each other. The office in Jerusalem isn't even thinking of picking up the phone and calling Ramallah. The security coordination checked in Gaza, in the Jordanian intelligence, and reached the conclusion that they must look deep in the Hebron forests.
On the one hand, the Ramallah source tells me, we know about your new law which aims to torpedo any bargaining for the release of prisoners in exchange for captives. On the other hand, we know that the settlers won't leave Bibi alone. They will know how to pressure him.
He is deliberately only mentioning Netanyahu. Sources in Abbas' close circle noted Saturday, "We are afraid that Ya'alon is planning something crazy, which we will pay for dearly."
Whichever way you look at it, Abbas comes out of this affair looking bad. Even before the abduction, he was hit with two scandals from two of his faithful men of all people: Saeb Erekat, which is in charge of the negotiations with Israel, said in front of a camera that Abbas is "useless," called him a "dictator like Bashar (Assad) and Saddam (Hussein)," and asked how much longer "this 79-year-old man" would live.
At the same time, the Palestinian ambassador to London, Manuel Hassassian, has called for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and rethinking the right of return.
Both of them, one can only guess, will say that their comments were taken out of context intentionally. But in Erekat's case there is a tape, and in the Palestinian diplomat's case there is an article he co-authored.
Everything revealed until now, under censorship restrictions, leads to the conclusion that this abduction was planned by more than three or four people. The defense minister admitted Saturday that "it slipped under our radar," and so far only one unknown Salafi organization has issued a statement claiming responsibility. A lean, unconvincing statement.
Washington and Jerusalem, as well as Ramallah, see the abduction affair as the Palestinian unity government's first test.
No matter how it ends, and let's hope for the best, Abbas has failed. If this is a temporary organization which has raised its head, this is a failure (and not the first one) of the security organizations in the West Bank, and he is their supreme commander. If it's Hamas and its affiliates, Abbas has been kicked in the most painful area in a bid to explain to him which direction the wind is blowing in.