JERUSALEM – Several intelligence, military and political gaffes – ranging from the release of Hamas terrorists as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange deal to incidents on Israel’s northern and southern borders that caught the IDF off guard – threaten to erode Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s credibility with his coalition and the Israeli public.
Above all else, of course, is the ongoing search for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12.
On Tuesday Racheli Frankel, the mother of kidnapped Israeli teen Naftali Frankel (who is also an American citizen), implored the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to foment international support for the release of her son and his fellow students at Mekor Haim Yeshiva, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar. (See text of her remarks below.)
According to several Israeli news reports, the families of the three kidnapped victims defied a government request to delay their appearances before any UN forum.
As it appeared the IDF was no closer to solving the mystery of the teens’ disappearance, Racheli Frankel, at the behest of the Yifrach and Shaar families, began a media blitz in the U.S. During the past week, she has been interviewed by CNN, The Washington Post and other media outlets.
A senior IDF officer speculated that Israeli forces have been unable to locate the missing teens and their abductors because “they might still be on the move.” The officer, who serves in the IDF’s Central Command, added, “They [the kidnappers] have either not completed their escape route, or they are waiting for the situation on the ground to calm down in order to announce the kidnapping.”
Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, while denying that his organization had anything to do with the kidnapping, nonetheless applauded the operation.
Meanwhile, the Israel Police announced late Monday that one of its elite undercover units had apprehended Ziad Awad, a Hamas terrorist who murdered Israel Police intelligence expert Baruch Mizrachi on Passover eve as he drove with his wife and children from Modiin to visit family members living in Judea.
Awad had been released as part of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping deal. Mizrachi’s widow, Hadas, told Israeli reporters that she had opposed the release of murderers as part of any kidnapping deal, and that Awad “deserved the death penalty so he wouldn’t kill again.”
News of the capture of Awad prompted criticism from members of Netanyahu’s coalition and the families of terror victims. The critics said that the prime minister had made a serious error by bowing to pressure from the media, other politicians and the security establishment with the release of so many terrorists as part of the Shalit deal.
Maariv’s Ben Caspit wrote, “When it became clear to him [Netanyahu] that freeing Shalit would neutralize the major protests of the summer of 2011 and instantly turn him into the darling of the masses on the Center-Left, Bibi did not hesitate.
“As long as Israel agrees to go down on its knees and crawl backward in the face of a photograph of an abducted soldier or youth, all of the terrorist organizations will continue to invest all of their energy, creativity, daring and murderous inclinations in order to abduct them. When we stop paying, it will stop.”
In addition to following the kidnappings and the Mizrachi case, Netanyahu conducted several closed-door meetings with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and the IDF Home Front Command this week. They attempted to ascertain how the IDF was caught off guard along the nation’s northern and southern borders this past week, which nearly resulted in a significant loss of life.
Despite the presence of Israeli combat forces in the Golan Heights along the Syrian border, a Syrian army unit fired at an unarmed Israeli construction crew operating along the security fence, killing a young Israeli Arab.