Netanyahu and Bennett Bear Responsibility for Teens' Fate

Passing the bill to thwart prisoner releases has made it clear that Israel will skip all negotiating – a phase which could have allowed for gathering intelligence and planning a rescue operation.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Netanyahu and Bennett in the Knesset. February 12, 2014.
Netanyahu and Bennett in the Knesset. February 12, 2014.Credit: Emil Salman
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

The hope of returning the three teens alive is first and foremost a human one. May they be returned unharmed to their families.

It is also, however, an operational hope: To return them without suffering any casualties among security forces and to prevent an escalation that could wash over the West Bank - and even in Arab cities in Israel - should a wave of "price tag" attacks follow the incident.

Follow our live blog and interactive map for the latest updates on the missing teens

But even if, God forbid, these hopes go unanswered and the motive of the perpetrators is revealed, the blame will also be placed on the Israeli ministers: Those who just days ago approved Economy Minister Naftali Bennett's bill aimed at thwarting the release of murderers in future prisoner swaps.

This is not wisdom in hindsight: The danger of such a scenario was raised well before the government voted on the bill. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and a handful of ministers, including former Shin Bet head Jacob Perry continue to warn against this piece of legislation. But their colleagues, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and, namely, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are sending a message to those planning to bargain with Israel using a kidnapping, a message that says: There is no point in negotiating – Israel has shackled itself with legislation. In case of a terrorist attack, the practical conclusion is obvious.
If such a message plays a role in how the current incident ends, Ya'alon and Bennett must immediately resign. As if the rising Israeli-Palestinian tension was not enough – exacerbated by Netanyahu's failure to do his part and release the fourth group of prisoners under the agreement with Kerry and Abbas – Israel's leadership has clarified to the terrorist groups and to independent cells that Israel will skip negotiations that characterized the Air France affair in Entebbe, the Nahshon Vaxman affair and the Gilad Shalit deal. The dialogue in those cases, the setting of an ultimatum (in Entebbe and in the Vaxman case) is what allowed for intelligence gathering, planning and execution of rescue missions, even though their success is not guaranteed.

Netanyahu, as usual, is trying to distract attention away from his responsibility for the release of hundreds of murderers and other terror-linked figures in the Shalit deal. In this case, deflecting it toward Abbas. On Thursday, a day after the IDF and Shin Bet killed Mohammed Awar, who they said was "involved in many rocket launched against Israel while serving as an officer in the Hamas police force," the IDF spokesman spoke only of "an extreme Salafi infrastructure" without mentioning Hamas. A similar, Hamas-free statement was released by Ya'alon. But why should Netanyahu care? He ignored the facts and released a statement saying "this is the true face of Hamas, even while it's sitting together in the same government with Abbas, who pledged to dismantle Gaza's terrorist infrastructure."

Words, words of propaganda which avoid reaching a settlement, hollow words of double-edged legislation, words that could kill.

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