Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Analysis: Battling the rumors


The case of the kidnapped teens in the West Bank is like solving a puzzle by adding one piece to another, and for the IDF and the Shin Bet, rumors within the public are only complicating matters.

IDF soldiers search for missing teens Photo: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE
While the IDF continues with house-to-house and cave-to-cave searches, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) keeps collecting pieces of intelligence information and already nearly 200 Hamas activists and political leaders have been arrested, the security establishment is challenged on a new front. Their task, to repel and deny the irresponsible spreading of rumors and hoaxes.
It began Friday with the fabricated message supposedly by an IDF spokesman claiming that three kidnapped yeshiva students were rescued in a “heroic operation.” It continued Monday with another false message that the three were murdered within the first minutes of the abduction.

These two rumors, product of a sick mind, were denied by the IDF spokesman who called upon the public to “stop spreading rumors.” It is highly doubtful whether such a call will be heard. The Internet and social media are already on unstoppable, uncontrollable automated pilot. “When this kidnapping affair hopefully reaches its happy ending,” I was told by security officials, “we will have to deal with this phenomenon.”
The prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff have called upon the public to show restraint and patience, the question on the mind of every Israeli is, “When will it be over?” No one has a crystal ball to answer that. It can happen at any moment, but it could take days and longer.
Security officials also told me that “with everyday that passes we have better intelligence and a better understanding.” But it can also be said that with every day that passes – it’s already more than 100 hours since the abduction – the concern for the lives of the kidnapped boys increases.
Any way according to the sources “this case is not comparable to the Gilad Schalit” case of the Israeli soldier kidnapped in 2006 by Hamas, held in Gaza and eventually released in 2011 for 1027 Palestinians terrorists including murders sentence to imprisonment.
They mean to say that, unlike during the Schalit crisis when Shin Bet had no intelligence regarding his whereabouts, thus precluding a viable military rescue operation, this time the intelligence is much better. Yet the agency which is supported by the military intelligence does not have the needed information to determine whether the three students are alive, where they are being held, who their kidnappers are and who they are sheltered by. It’s not an easy task.
It’s like solving a puzzle by adding one piece to another.
The driving forces behind the efforts to locate the abducted teens and track down the abductors are the intelligence community’s operations.
The Shin Bet, using both human and technological intelligence, is the single most important element in this affair. The operation fluctuates between three intelligence circles, with the hope that in the end, all of the circles will close.
One of the circles focuses on information obtained from Palestinian agents and collaborators operated by Shin Bet. The second oversees the investigation of the arrested Hamas activists.
Here one must differentiate between arrests of those in the operational echelon – in which the detainee may be able to supply intelligence information – with arrests of those in Hamas’ political echelon in the West Bank. The purpose of the latter arrests is triple: punishment, deterrence, and to satisfy the Israeli public.
Arrests of a political nature nonetheless also contain an intelligence goal.
Israeli leaders are talking about punishing Hamas, but a military operation is not at the moment in the cards. Certainly not while the search continues.
It is interesting to note that in his remarks Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon make a distinction between Gaza Hamas and Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Hamas.
This does not mean that Israel will not retaliate militarily. But for the time being Israel is using collective punishment against Hebron residents.
They are prevented from travel abroad and 20,000 Palestinians workers and traders from the region are forbidden to enter Israel.
In conclusion, a word about the unfair jab the media has taken at the police. What would it have helped if the police commissioner had cut short his trip at an international conference in New York City to return to Israel? The police is a marginal element in the investigation of this tragic incident. And as infuriating as it is that initial information about this kidnapping was delayed nearly eight hours due to police negligence, one must remember that the kidnappers had no knowledge of that fact at the time. They had no idea that they had eight extra hours in their hands.
They knew and acted with the assumption that they must disappear within a few minutes or a maximum of a couple of hours.

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