Israel will, in “good time,” share with the world the intelligence information showing unequivocally that Hamas is responsible for the kidnappings of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach, government sources said Tuesday.
According to the sources, Israel waited until Sunday morning – more than two days after the Thursday evening abduction – to point a finger unequivocally at Hamas.
“We waited until we were 100-percent certain, and it will be apparent to everyone that Hamas is behind this,” an official said, adding that “serious people” in various capitals around the world already knew this.
The reason this information is not being shared more widely is that it deals with “issues that are of an operational nature,” the official explained.
Convincing the world of Hamas’s involvement is one prong of a multifaceted policy aimed at bringing about the return of the three kidnapped teenagers by placing intensive pressure on Hamas from various angles.
In addition to the main operational goal, which is to bring the three boys back to their families, Israel is engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts to delegitimize the unity pact between Hamas and Fatah, the official said.
As part of this campaign, government officials are emphasizing the constant drumbeat of incitement against Israel in the Palestinian Authority’s official media and education system, including calls for and encouragement of the kidnapping of Israelis.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Tuesday that the world needed to condemn Hamas, support Israel’s right to protect its citizens, and call on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to end his unity pact with the terrorist organization.
At the start of their meeting, Netanyahu said that the “brutal” kidnapping of the three teenagers revealed Hamas’s “true face.”
Hamas is intent on not only killing Israelis, but also kidnapping children, Netanyahu said.
“Anybody who supports peace must tell the Palestinian Authority that they cannot build a government that is backed by the kidnappers of children and the murderers of innocents,” he said.
Other prongs in Israel’s campaign include placing direct pressure on Hamas by arresting dozens of its members in the West Bank and taking steps against the organization’s financial infrastructure, as well as indirect pressure such as stiffening the jail conditions for Hamas activists in Israeli jails.
The latter was a decision the security cabinet made – the only operational decision to be made public – after it met for hours on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
One official said that the conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were “beyond what international law requires,” and that as part of sending a message to the organization, those conditions would be made harsher.
The security cabinet did not specify what the changes in the jail conditions would be.
In July 2011, some three months before the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Netanyahu announced a similar policy, saying after Hamas refused to give the International Committee of the Red Cross proof that Schalit was alive that terrorists in Israeli jails would face tougher conditions.
The security cabinet heard in-depth briefings on the situation from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen. A senior government official said after the meeting that there would be further deliberations on other steps to continue placing pressure on Hamas.
After the security cabinet meeting, the official reiterated that Israel held the PA and its leadership responsible for attacks emanating from its territory.
However, the Palestinian government on Tuesday rejected Netanyahu’s statements that Abbas bore responsibility for the kidnappings.
The government said that in the past, it had warned that Israel was seeking to “create excuses to destroy the peace process, to continue its settlement plans, Judaize Jerusalem and divide the Aksa Mosque.”
The Israeli official added that Israel saw Hamas as responsible for actually carrying out the kidnappings, and that Jerusalem did not differentiate between the different parts and factions inside the organization – a reference to speculation that some splinter group inside Hamas may have carried out the kidnappings.
Meanwhile, after five days of silence from Brussels, the EU issued a statement on Tuesday condemning “in the strongest terms the abduction of three Israeli students in the West Bank,” and called for their immediate and safe return.
The statement from Brussels lagged behind condemnations that a number of other countries and international organizations issued over the weekend and on Monday against the kidnappings, among them the US, Canada, Spain, Britain, Germany, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
France also issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the kidnappings.
According to the EU statement, acts such as the kidnappings “can only undermine international efforts to encourage a resumption of peace negotiations. We are following developments closely and remain in constant contact with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.”
Before the statement was finally released, Israeli diplomatic officials expressed anger and disappointment that it had taken Brussels so long to condemn this act, especially since, they said, the European body routinely reacted swiftly and without mincing words every time there was any announcement of new construction in Jerusalem areas beyond the Green Line or anywhere in the settlements.
One senior EU official, asked why it had taken so long for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s office to denounce the abductions, said it had been a weekend and that there were many other issues on the international agenda, including the current talks with Iran and the quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq.
Meanwhile, EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen – who did condemn the kidnappings on Sunday – visited Elad, where Yifrach’s family lives. He met Mordechai Malka, the community’s Sephardi chief rabbi, and expressed the EU’s condemnation of the kidnapping.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, currently visiting Africa, called the foreign ministers of a number of countries that had condemned the kidnappings – including Bulgaria, Belgium and Norway – to thank them for their support and expressions of solidarity.