The June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teenaged students is a repeat, both politically and in action, of earlier Palestinian machinations, a leading Israeli security expert told Canadian Jewish leaders.
In a June 19 conference call organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) Avi Dichter, Israel’s former minister of internal security and director of Shin Bet, the country’s internal security service, said that in early 2006, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority announced a united government, following which Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him hostage for five years.
Earlier this month, Hamas and the PA again announced a unity government and soon after, the three teenaged boys were kidnapped.
Both cases “showed, not just us or the United States or Canada and other countries, that…whenever they have united governments, they – Hamas – have their own strategy and own path,” Dichter told the 100 or so Canadians on the call.
“That should wake up each one of us, including the American administration that backed the united government between Hamas and the PA,” he added.
Dichter said that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames Hamas for the kidnappings, “he’s counting on very intimate information.”
Meanwhile, as of last week, Israel had no details, at least officially, on the teens’ whereabouts or well-being, Dichter said, adding it was not known whether they were being held in the place they were abducted, Gush Etzion, or moved.
There was “not even one official call [from] a terror organization taking responsibility.”
But in Israel’s detention and interrogation of hundreds of Palestinian suspects and operatives, “some picture is getting clearer.”
He said about 60 of the Palestinian detainees were released from prison as part of the deal for Shalit’s freedom, and were re-detained because they violated the terms of their release.
Israeli troops, he went on, have also blocked Hamas’s efforts to gain strength in the West Bank.
The task before Israel, Dichter stated, is two-fold: The main one is to find the teens and return them to their families, and the other is to weaken Hamas in the West Bank.
When these are done, “we will have to chat in a different way with the PA.”
While PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has called for the return of the Israeli teenagers, “we all understand that good words, nice words, [translate into] not even one effective action on the ground.”
Asked whether Israel has a time frame for finding the kidnapping victims, Dichter replied: “It’s not a Hollywood movie. It’s not something that in two hours, it’s finished.”
Another challenge for Israel lies in the east. The United States, Dichter said, is enlisting Iran’s help to fight the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, a move that could lend Iran legitimacy. And if members of the radical Sunni militia ISIS infiltrate Jordan, “we might confront a very bad situation.”
The conference call also heard from Prof. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli expert on Islamic groups, who agreed Israel is doing “the dirty work” of the PA by “cleaning up” the West Bank.