A Citizen Kidnapped: The Silence of the President

Over two weeks since the abduction of American citizen Naftali Frenkel, President Barack Obama has yet to publicly say a word. Utter silence.

Palestinian terrorists abducted Frenkel and two Israeli teenagers, on the evening of June 12th. While no person or organization has stepped forward to take credit, Israel claims that that they have indisputable evidence to link the hostage situation to Hamas and that they have provided this information to the State Department. Secretary of State John Kerry has gone as far as to publicly state, “Many indications point to Hamas’ involvement.”

One would think that the president of the United States would speak after the abduction of an American citizen. But in the case of Frenkel, the president has remained silent.

Obama’s silence is problematic for two reasons. For starters, Frenkel has an American passport and one would think that the president would speak up when a 16-year-old American goes missing. Moreover, Frenkel is a dual-citizen of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East: Israel. Thus, naturally the president should have no problem condemning the horrific terrorist attack that has paralyzed those who care about human rights.

But perhaps most importantly, as the leader of the free world, President Obama is obligated to publicly speak out against such an atrocity.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), “National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said of her boss, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Obama after the White House meeting” with “Israeli President Shimon Peres and American Jewish leaders,” they expressed “deep concern” for the “three missing Israeli teenagers.”

A third-hand account and no mention of the word kidnapping. Not exactly reassuring for the family of Naftali Frenkel or the U.S. and Israel public.

Again, why no public statement – condemnation of this abhorrent act from the president?

Even if the president questions American exceptionalism and prefers “nation building at home” rather than stronger US intervention, a member of the family of nations must rebuke such horrific behavior- especially directed at one its very own. A posture of silence on this issue signals nothing more than just weakness and sends a message to terrorists that America is apathetic when they take a citizen.

Even President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority — whose government still provides financial assistance to terrorists — has condemned the kidnappings. Additionally, the United Nations Human Rights Council, which consistently condemns Israel for contrived crimes and phony offenses, allowed testimony to be heard from Naftali’s mother on the morning of June 24th.

Yet, we have been silent. As Americans, this is an embarrassment. Though perhaps we should have seen this coming, as the president, in the words of Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), hasn’t lifted a finger” to help Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who has been sitting in a Mexican jail since April 1st.

President Obama’s curious reticence on this issue contradicts a precedent he has created of inserting himself into stories throughout his presidency. Both domestically and abroad, the president has never been one for silence. Yet when it comes to the kidnapping of an American citizen, Obama has been silent.

In May, Obama claimed that the “Global War on Terror,” was over and asked that the United States direct its efforts “as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” An American held hostage certainly fits the category of violent extremism.

On perhaps an even more problematic level, the White House OK’d funding to the very terrorists who kidnapped Frenkel. In the days before the kidnapping,the White House was under fire for its insistence to continue aid to the newly-formed Palestinian “unity government” — $400 million a year, to be precise.

The legality of this decision is cloudy as well. United States law officially bans “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

Now, not only is the United States effectively funding a terrorist organization, but it is funding an organization that abducted an American citizen. Silence can be merely injudicious. But complicity is unforgivable.

Unfortunately, the president’s prior decision-making with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has virtually handcuffed him on this issue. As my colleague Paul Miller of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity highlighted in Wednesday’s Washington Times, “….the administration is putting U.S. tax dollars in the pockets of terrorists. This makes the American taxpayer an unwilling co-conspirator to terrorism.”

A public condemnation of the hostage situation would bring further attention to the issue. Unwanted coverage would lead to yet another political embarrassment. As if Benghazi, the IRS and the administrations failures in Syria and Iraq weren’t enough.

But then again, it’s easier to dismiss this issue as just another “phony scandal” or simply say nothing at all.

A version of this article originally appeared on

About the Author
Daniel Mael is a senior at Brandeis University, a contributor to, and a fellow at the Salomon Center.