Hello From Jerusalem - June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014

This past weekend the people of Israel were glued to their television sets 24/7, but not to watch the Mondial soccer matches currently taking place in Brazil drawing the attention of hundreds of millions around the world...
Kidnapping three people at once is highly unusual. If this wasn't a crime of opportunity, it is likely that the abduction was relatively well-organized and well-prepared by terrorists.

The question to be asked is how did this happen under the Shin Bet's radar and whether this attests to the deteriorating coordination with the Palestinians on security matters in the wake of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation and establishment of a technocratic government earlier this month.

The three yeshiva students were last seen in the Gush Etzion settlement south of Jerusalem. Nearby a terror cell, which has yet to be apprehended, is operating in the Hebron area.  These are the terrorists who murdered police officer Baruch Mizrachi on Seder eve this year near Hebron. That attack pointed to a relatively high skill level and to this day there is still no lead in the investigation.

At this stage, however, it seems that the IDF and Shin Bet are still at the beginning of a long investigation process.  They must attempt to reach those directly involved in the kidnapping. This is done through an array of methods, but primarily, via arrests and interrogations.

With search efforts still in full swing security forces have only a few leads, including the burnt-out car found near the scene of the kidnapping. Each lead must be followed until those directly responsible are found, and only then we will be able to comprehend how the kidnapping actually took place.

The operational conditions in the West Bank are completely different than those in the Gaza Strip: In Gaza, Hamas managed to keep Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit alive for over five years without Israel determining his whereabouts or executing a successful rescue plan. Left without any other options, Israel was forced to pay an exaggerated price and release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

The reality is different in the West Bank. The IDF can reach almost any location in the West Bank. The Shin Bet operates an intricate network of human intelligence and surveillance on the ground. Palestinian security forces also operate in many places, and have –more than once – thwarted planned kidnappings and given relevant information to the Shin Bet.

The terrorists know this– and that’s why the security forces are so worried. In most cases, the terrorists murder their hostages a short time after kidnapping them; the thought being that a live hostage leaves behind a greater "intelligence footprint" than a discarded body. A hostage needs to be guarded, fed, held and hidden – all these actions leave traces behind and can send security forces running to the rescue.

A more optimistic scenario is the obtaining of half-decent intelligence, resulting in a rescue operation conducted getting the hostages back alive without consequence, as in the past case of abducted soldier Nachshon Wachsman, where an attempted rescue deteriorated into a catastrophe in which both Wachsman and Sayeret Matakal Captain Nir Poraz were killed.

Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin decided that if it were possible to conduct a rescue operation with only a moderate and reasonable threat to human life, the mission must be conducted. If this is impossible, negotiations should begin. This principle was implemented not only by Rabin but also by every Israeli government that has put massive wholesale prisoner exchange deals into motion, which have in turn only encouraged Israel's enemies – namely Hezbollah and the Palestinians – to strive to kidnap more and more Israelis.

Only once a full intelligence assessment has been completed will it be possible to answer the 'five W’s every intelligence official knows by heart: Who? What? When? Where? and Why? Then decisions will be made. Should a raid or a military operation be mounted to free the hostages or should we enter negotiations with the kidnappers? This is also contingent on whether the kidnappers make contact with Israel and issue demands.

There is the possibility, which we must pray does not come to pass, that the kidnappers will not take responsibility or call to negotiate because they have nothing to offer. This is undoubtedly a possibility that Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Shin Bet leaders have taken into account. A failed kidnapping is undoubtedly the worst case scenario.

Once again, the debate re negotiating with terror organizations has resurfaced on the Israeli scene. While redeeming a captive is a Jewish commandment, or mitzvah, there is also a caveat. If you pay the ransom for one, it may increase the likelihood that others will be kidnapped for money and that a particular community may soon become impoverished targets.

It is likely that, given the combination of the aftermath of “Shalit deal” and the current government, this time the negotiation door will be closed.
Yossi Tanuri | Director General | Jewish Federations of Canada - UIA
 (+ 972 2) 620 2778   |(+ 972 2 ) 620 3038 |
 yossi@uiac.org.il | www.JewishCanada.org



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