One might be tempted to applaud Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s surprisingly warm early public statement regarding the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel (before they were found murdered). That is, until one considers the all-important context.
On the positive side of the ledger, Mr. Abbas declared, at the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, that “The three teens are human beings like us and they should be returned to their families.”
And he went on to add that when American officials informed him that one of the abductees was an American citizen, “We told them that it does not matter whether he is an Israeli or an American, he is a human being.”
But that is only the beginning of the story.
From the outset, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said Hamas was behind the kidnapping and murder of the three teens and that the Shin Bet had identified two alleged perpetrators with ties to Hamas.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that while the investigations were still ongoing, “many indications point to Hamas’s involvement.”
And in an interview with Al Jazeera soon after news of the kidnappings broke, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal praised the action and declined to deny a Hamas role: “No one claimed responsibility so far. I can neither confirm [a Hamas involvement] nor deny it.” He then went on to say:
Blessed be the hands that captured them. This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people. Our prisoners must be freed, not Hamas’s prisoners [but] the prisoners of the Palestinian people…. I, Khaled Mashaal, and my brother in the political bureau, claim full responsibility for any action carried out by any member of the movement.
And therein lies the tale.
Despite the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens, Hamas’s apparent role, and Mr. Mashaal’s own comments, Mr. Abbas has still said nothing about reconsidering his recent acceptance of Hamas into a “unity” government or indeed taken any action to dim the legitimacy he thereby conferred on them. Moreover, since the unity government became operative, Hamas militants have had unprecedented freedom of movement in the West Bank in areas that had been under the control of Mr. Abbas’s Fatah, thus facilitating kidnapping schemes.
Mr. Abbas’s silence gives the lie to his statement about his belief in the humanity of the three teens.
Leave it to The New York Times, though, to run cover for Mr. Abbas. In a July 8 editorial on the murders of the three Israeli teens and the apparent revenge killing of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Times said that Mr. Abbas “denounced the abductions [of the Israeli teens] and vowed to help catch the kidnappers. Two suspects said to have ties to Hamas have since been arrested.”
In fact, the two suspects were arrested by Israeli authorities – not, as the Times tried artfully to suggest, by Mr. Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. Moreover, any involvement by the PA in the search for the kidnappers would be all the more reason for Mr. Abbas to cut Hamas loose in light of the suspects’ apparent connection to that group.
In any event, Israel’s swift and meaningful action in tracking down the killers of Muhammad Abu Khdeir puts Mr. Abbas’s empty posturing in sharp perspective. As soon as the body of the Palestinian teenager was found, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to get to the bottom of the murder (he told the victim’s family that Israel does “not differentiate between terrorists”) and within days six Jewish Israelis were arrested in connection with the crime. Plainly, the prime minister meant what he said, while Mr. Abbas was once again playing for the news cameras.