The Real Reason Netanyahu Is Blaming Abbas

As Israel searches for the three teens suspected kidnapped in the West Bank, the Palestinian president is Israel's only strategic asset.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
Netanyahu holds Palestinian Authority responsible for the fate of the three missing teens.
Netanyahu holds Palestinian Authority responsible for the fate of the three missing teens.Credit: Eran Wolkowski
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

"What is happening on the ground since the entry of Hamas into the Palestinian government is detrimental. This is the result of letting a murderous terrorist organization into the government." That, put simply, is Benjamin Netanyahu's doctrine as he explained it Friday to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

But the facts are a little different. Netanyahu himself reported in June 2013, some ten months before the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, that 30 kidnapping attempts of citizens and soldiers had been thwarted.

Where, then, is the connection between the alleged kidnapping and the establishment of the Palestinian unity government?

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

On Saturday, it was revealed that Palestinian security forces who arrived to help with the search were asked by the IDF to leave the area. How, then, does Netanyahu expect Abbas to fulfill his part of the security coordination? The missing teens reside in Area C, which is under full Israeli control, and were most likely kidnapped in that region. How can Abbas be held responsible for what happens in an area under Israeli control?

The Shin Bet and Israeli intelligence agencies do not know who kidnapped the boys. They are searching in Hebron and the towns of Yata and Samu'a, based on a pamphlet allegedly released by the kidnappers in which they claim their actions are an act of revenge for the killing last month of Mohammad Nairoukh from Hebron, and Mahmoud al-Najjar and Moussa Makhamra from Yata.

Does Netanyahu assume that Abbas has different information, which he is not giving Israel? If so, he must also assume that the kidnapping serves Abbas or the Palestinian Authority. One wonders what Netanyahu bases this assumption on, especially in light of the accolades Abbas has received over the past several years regarding the extent of his security cooperation with Israel.

Abbas is responsible for the well-being of the kidnapped teens as much as Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo is responsible for the well-being of Belgian Jews and the two Israeli tourists who were murdered in Brussels. With one exception: Di Rupo is the sovereign in his state; Abbas is not.

Interestingly, Netanyahu, who spoke to Di Rupo, was careful not to hold him responsible. Nor did he hold the French prime minister responsible two years ago after the Toulouse shooting, or President Obama for the Jewish residents of the Kansas community center after a Klu-Klux Klan member murdered three people last April. Why? Because there is a world of difference between locating those responsible for terrorist attacks and laying absolute blame on a leader.

Netanyahu, for instance, is not responsible for hate crimes; he is not even responsible for the kidnapping of Jews in an area under Israeli control. Nor is he responsible for the alleged use of live fire to kill two Palestinians in Beitunia. But he is responsible for planning and implementing policies relating to the military, diplomacy and intelligence to minimize the chance that such events could transpire. The well-being of the hostages is also not his responsibility, for he didn't kidnap them – he can only decide, when the time comes, whether to negotiate their release or stick to the policy – one that never stood the test of reality – of not negotiating with terrorists.

Abbas' status is no different than that of Netanyahu. He did not carry out this kidnapping, and, in the eyes of the perpetrators, he is most likely perceived as a worse enemy than Netanyahu – a collaborator with the occupier. Abbas has instructed his forces to cooperate with the IDF on every level. He knows what such an attack does to the Palestinian Authority's standing in the world, and he hears the dissatisfaction in the Palestinian public over his inaction regarding Palestinian prisoners. Yet Abbas, who is trapped between the Israeli rock and the Palestinian hard place, is Israel's only strategic asset in this incident, and blaming him has no benefits except for the lip service that Netanyahu feels he should pay his followers.

Thus, there is a creeping suspicion that framing Abbas as responsible for the recent events has another purpose: Justifying a collective punishment against the Palestinian Authority and its citizens. With that goal, Israel will try to construct a legitimate justification for labeling the PA as a terrorist organization, or one that supports terrorism, and demand it be boycotted, even by Arab states. It also presents Israel with a good opportunity to "prove" that it was not Israel that derailed the peace process – for how can you negotiate with an authority that has embraced Hamas into its ranks.

Neither Abbas or Netanyahu are responsible for the kidnapping, but, given the current atmosphere of the attack on Abbas, it is not unwise to examine who it serves more.

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