Prime Minister Netanyahu declared by Saturday night that it was a kidnapping by terrorists, and put the responsibility on the Abbas government which now includes an alliance with Hamas. Netanyahu said that the kidnapping demonstrates the folly of all (the American administration and others) who would applaud an alliance between Abbas and a terrorist organization.
Sunday noon Netanyahu specified that it was Hamas who carried out the kidnapping.
John Kerry has said that he spoke with Abbas, and that the Palestinian leader pledged his cooperation to locate the young men.
So far Hamas has not claimed responsibility, but its people are endorsing the continuation of the national struggle against Israel, and passing out sweets in celebration of the accomplishment.
The Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Commanding General of the IDF have committed themselves time and again to rescuing the young men and punishing those who committed,or supported the crime.
Two so-far unknown organizations have claimed credit for the kidnapping, but officials are treating that as the meaningless noise likely to come from Palestinians whenever there is something to claim.
Some say that Abbas'' lack of anything more than hope for the safety of the young men, commitment to peace, and ordering Palestinian security personnel to cooperate with Israelis reflects his embarrassment, and fear that unfolding events will end his career.
Fatah personnel are accusing Israel of using the event to beat the drums of war and to excuse its refusal to make peace.
A Meretz MK emphasized that Netanyahu and his government had abandoned the peace process, which helped create the atmosphere that encourages Palestinian violence.
The nature of victims--students at Gush Etzion yeshivot--has mobilized the Orthodox and settler communities. There have been interviews with family members saying what fine boys they are, prayers for their safe return in synagogues, a mass assembly at the Western Wall, and the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi called on the Pope to follow up on his recent efforts for peace by working in behalf of the boys'' return.
Gone from the headlines are the issues of MK Meir Shetreet''s payment to a cleaning lady and assertions of sexual harassment, and a story that just began to fetch headlines and promised to be the hit of this week, describing how Bibi and/or Sara finagling with public money to buy new furniture presumably for the official residence, but put the new items in one of their private homes, and moved some refurbished old pieces from their home to the official residence.
The kidnapping led one of the performers to cancel a scheduled appearance at a rally in an Arab village against Jewish extremists who vandalize mosques and other Arab property under the heading of Price Tag. However, the rally went forward, with performers who did appear saying that Jewish-Arab cooperation was important enough to go forward despite an act of terror.
Israel has a record of paying ransom with many prisoners (over 1,000 for Gilad Shalit), and then pledging itself--via the reports of distinguished committees, Kneset resolutions or legislation--not to do it again.
The Orthodox and settler party Jewish Home was among those opposed to freeing 100 prisoners for the sake of peace talks with Palestinians, and promoting legislation giving the courts the authority to issue lifetime sentences for acts of murder with no chance of pardon. Insofar as the present victims are members of the Jewish Home constituency--all studying in West Bank yeshivot, one living in a West Bank settlement, and two in other Orthodox communities--we may see how the party leaders deal with the pressures.
The IDF has moved what is reported as 20,000 troops to the area of Hebron where the victims are thought to be hidden, and is said to be prepared for all contingencies. We hear that West Bank and Gaza residents are ambivalent, between enjoying the pressure on Israel, and wondering what it will cost them.
By Monday morning the IDF and Shin Bet had arrested more than 100 politicians, religious leaders, and activists identified with Hamas throughout the West Bank, including some of the Palestinians released under earlier deals, imposed a curfew on Hebron, closed exit roads from the city, and tightened controls on Gaza.
While these actions might be directed narrowly at locating the missing boys, they are also sending a message to the Palestinians about the overwhelming power of Israel.
Sooner or later there will be international protests about Israel''s overreaction. The Prime Minister has gone international with efforts to explain his view of the Abbas-Hamas alliance, and Israel''s actions in response to the kidnapping.
Police have also been mobilized and sent to Arab areas of Israel, to prevent unrest that might be due to actions of either Jewish or Arab extremists.
While the major media have been near united in expressing concern for the kidnapped, Israel''s Internet has included expressions not so favorable to religious settlers, seen as a "separate nation" with its own values. There has also been criticism of Netanyahu''s campaign to put all the blame on Hamas and the Abbas-Hamas agreement. Other voices have noted the cooperation of Palestinian security personnel with Israelis in helping to locate the kidnappers, and the cooperation of Egyptians.
Media personalities are not resisting the temptation to blame one or another organization for slipping up, or major failures.
There has been some comment about the fault of the young men for hitchhiking through the West Bank at night, despite repeated warnings by security personnel about the intention of Palestinian extremists to kidnap Israelis for the sake of killing them or trading them. More prominent are assertions that bus companies are not providing better service to settler communities.
Critics are piling on the police personnel working the emergency number (Israel''s equivalent of 911) to conclude that a brief message "we''ve been kidnapped" was a false alarm, and not sending it on to the IDF and other security forces. That caused a delay of several hours in mobilizing substantial forces.
So far we haven''t heard mention of the boy who called wolf, or how many false alarms come into the emergency number..
Commentators have noted that western media have played down the event, either ignoring it, or giving it far less attention than Iraq, Ukraine, or the World
There''s been an uptick in the incidence of rockets coming from Gaza, either the work of Hamas or one of the smaller gangs seeking to add to their status or our problems. So far no serious damage, and only symbolic responses from Israel''s airforce.
As more time goes without finding the boys or hearing the price for getting them back, the media is turning pessimistic. Beyond their fate is the possibility of wider actions in the West Bank and Gaza, and all that might mean for Palestine, international nastiness, and us.