Missing Israeli in Hamas capitivity may not be worst-case scenario
Analysis: If Avraham Mangisto were alive and well in Hamas's hands, the organization would have no reason to deny it was holding him. It is possible that he is held captive by the Islamic State or Islamic Jihad, and there are even worse possibilities, but Hamas may be holding him as a bargaining chip.
The Avraham Mangisto affair was revealed Thursday, and it seems that there are zero chances of bringing about his release from Hamas in Gaza through secret negotiations or through foreign intermediaries. In light of intelligence efforts to locate him and to ascertain his physical condition, there is no longer any reason at the moment to keep secret the fact that a young Israeli man, with a history of absences and disappearances from his family, crossed the fence into Gaza and was captured by Hamas.
Hamas admits that Mangisto was in their hands and was interrogated, but released him once convinced that he was not an IDF soldier. According to them, he was released and disappeared. This story is probably a brazen lie, and the fact that Hamas keeps repeating it to officials trying to mediate, brings about worries as to what Mangisto's fate is.
At the same time there is another Israeli citizen, a Bedouin resident of the Negev, who crossed the border fence under fairly similar circumstances, entered Gaza and was also arrested by Hamas. In this case, Hamas admits that he is still in their hands, so it is reasonable to argue that if Mangisto was sound and safe, Hamas would have no reason to deny the young man from Ashkelon was still their captive. .
One must repeat and emphasize that Mangisto's strange disappearance from Hamas' captivity should be of concern, and there are several options, one worse than the other, that one can imagine. For example, that he was captured by members of ISIS, or transferred to the Islamic Jihad (Hamas's ally) as part of a political deal, or even worse options.
Nevertheless, it may be that Hamas is holding the young man as a surprise bargaining in the final stage of negotiations on the return of the Bedouin-Israeli citizen and the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
One worrying sign is that at Wednesday's demonstration marking the anniversary of Operation Protective Edge Hamas displayed three "military ID tags" – one belonging to Oron Shaul, and the other two bearing question marks. One is presumably meant to represent Hadar Goldin and the third one of the two Israelis allegedly in captivity. The question is whose ID was missing. If it was meant to be Mangisto's tag, that is a bad sign.
There is no doubt that the Mangisto affair is an embarrassment to Hamas and it trying to deal with it through a heavy curtain of media coverage and false statements. Hamas leaders and spokesmen could have kept silent, but they see themselves as forced to talk about the missing Israelis as they have to show accomplishments from Operation Protective Shield.
One must remember that the main achievement which Hamas sought during last summer's war was the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, and their tunnels and special forces were intended for that end.. They did not succeed, which does not prevent them from trying to demand, in exchange for negotiations regarding the soldier's bodies, the release of Hamas members freed in the Shalit deal and who were arrested again Operation Brother's Keeper".
Hamas is frustrated by the fact that Israel is not ready to accede to their demand to release their prisoners and it is trying with all its might to put the issue in the headlines, among other things, using the anniversary of Operation Protective Shield as good media timing, when the Israeli's public's attention is drawn to the Gazan story. Wednesday, Khaled Meshal raised the issue of the Israeli prisoners allegedly in Hamas captivity to try to recreate the pressure of the family and the Israeli public on the Government from the time of Gilad Shalit. Today, the public and the families did not respond to this pressure, but Hamas continues to try..
Hamas is making the release of those rearrested after the Shalit deal a condition for negotiations. Only then will it make additional demands. It seems Hamas have not learned anything and have not understood that Israeli public opinion has matured and cannot be blackmailed as easily as in the past.
There was no military negligence
There is ostensibly room to claim that the IDF was negligent in allowing Mangisto to cross the fence, but the truth is that there were apparently no shortcomings in troops' performance. The lookouts noticed an unarmed individual's attempt to cross the border from Israel to the Gaza Strip in the Zikim beach area. Because Mangisto was unarmed, they did not fire weapons at their disposal meant to prevent penetrations from the Strip into Israeli territory.
The rules of engagement forbid firing on an unarmed person, but the lookouts dispatched an IDF force to the scene. The force arrived a few minutes too late. It called on Mangisto to halt when he was already south of the fence, but he refused and continued on his way on the beach until he encountered a group of Gazan fisherman, which took him to Hamas.
It does not look like there was any negligence, and it looks like the family was given devoted attention from almost the first minute. You can't always accuse the security forces and the Israeli government of racism. From the moment details were gathered and it was known that Mangisto was in the hands of Hamas, security forces contacted to the family to report the news. Today the family is complaining that the reports did not satisfy it – but what to do, that's the information that the security forces and intelligence community had, and that's what was passed onwards.
The Mangisto family is suffering a major tragedy, and we can understand its claims about the government and security forces in this context. But it took part in all the considerations and the information regarding the secret efforts behind the scenes to find and release Mangisto until Hamas announced it was not holding him. Therefore, in this category as well it seems that more or less everything possible was done to support and help the family.