When is a kidnapping more than a kidnapping? When politicians and others exploit a tragedy to further their agendas. It can also be an opportunity to repair damaged relations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
All of Israel wants to see the three teenagers– –Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel — kidnapped near Hebron two weeks ago returned safely to their families, and the government and security forces are devoting enormous energy to that task.
Prime Minister Netanyahu still hasn’t produced the “unequivocal proof” he promised about Hamas’s responsibility for the crime but today the Shin Bet named two Hamas suspects, Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, from the Hebron area, who are the targets of the massive manhunt. Several hundred Palestinians have been arrested in wide sweeps of the region.
Netanyahu has sought to use the kidnapping to force Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to break his reconciliation agreement with Hamas. Along the way the PM accused Abbas of complicity in the abduction by insisting it was a direct result of that unity pact.
Abbas denounced the kidnapping in an unprecedented forum, a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia. He also offered the help of PA security forces in the search.
Some sought to take advantage of the incident for their own gains.
• One Jewish organization said the best way to help find the boys was to pray and send money to the group.
• The Netanyahu cabinet, always looking for ways to curry favor with the settlement movement, authorized a $1.5 million aid package for the settlements.
• A haredi newspaper said the abduction was God’s punishment for drafting yeshiva students into the IDF.
• Various Israeli and American politicians made highly publicized photo-op visits to the boys’ families.
• Members of Knesset used the tragedy to repeat their calls for annexing much of the West Bank, resuming targeted assassinations, collective punishment and prohibiting future prisoner exchanges.
Behind this tragedy and exploitation, there may also be an unexpected opportunity.
If, as most suspect, it is proven Hamas is behind this incident and Abbas feels compelled to abrogate his ill-advised unity agreement, he could open the door to resuming an Israeli-Palestinian peace dialogue by removing Netanyahu’s excuse for refusing to talk.
That doesn’t mean that the two are ready to make peace, but resuming dialogue will keep alive the two-state solution and make possible repairing the two sides’ frayed relations. But peace will have to wait until there are new leaders in both camps with the political courage and vision to take that historic step.