Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

EU urges Israel to co-operate with Palestinians on kidnapping crisis

  • The kidnapping has stirred memories of Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped Israeli soldier who was held in Gaza for five years before his release in 2011 (Photo: Josh Evnin)

The EU has urged Israel to keep working with Palestinian authorities in order to help get back three teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank.

It said in a statement on Tuesday (17 June) it “encourages continued close cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services to ensure the swift release of the abductees.”

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It added that “such acts can only undermine international efforts to encourage a resumption of peace negotiations.”

The vanishing of the Jewish boys while on their way home from school in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last Thursday has caused a political and security storm in Israel over the past week.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyhau has said they were kidnapped by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group which is designated as a “terrorist” entity by the EU.

His forces have arrested dozens of Palestinians in an operation to find the missing youths.

He has also said it proves the EU and the US were wrong to endorse a Palestinian unity government formed by Hamas and by Fatah, a more moderate Palestinian group, and that Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, will be held responsible for their safety.

Israeli officials had earlier criticised the EU for taking so long to speak out.

EU sources told EUobserver the delay was caused by the fact its diplomats were trying to get their own information on the developments and because they were busy with other priorities on the crisis in Iraq and the nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna.

One contact said: “The Israeli Prime Minister says he has clear evidence of Hamas’ involvement. But he has not shared it with us.”

The source added the situation has put Abbas in a “difficult position” because “he looks bad in the eyes of the Israelis over his new relationship with Hamas, and he looks bad in the eyes of Hamas because his secrity forces are co-operating with Israel at a time when it is arresting scores of Hamas members”.

For his part, the EU ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, said that even if Hamas did it, the Palestinian unity government should not be held responsible because it is composed of “technocrats” who are not part of the group.

“Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups do not have representatives sitting in this government,” he told The Times of Israel over the weekend.

In a sharpening of the dispute over Hamas’ new role in the peace process, Faaborg-Andersen was on Monday summoned by the Israeli foreign ministry for a formal complaint.

The Union last week after meeting with the League of Arab States in Athens published a declaration urging Israel to co-operate with the Palestinian unity cabinet and blaming it for causing a “grave humanitarian situation” in Gaza – a strip of land ruled by the Hamas, which is under an Israeli blockade.

“From our point of view, the statement was so one-sided it’s as if it was dictated by the darker reaches of the Arab world,” a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Paul Hirschson, said.

A spokesman for Hamas, Ghazi Hamad, declined to comment on the situation, saying the timing is “too sensitive”.

A second EU diplomatic source told this website he believes there is “no appetite” on the Israeli or the Palestinian side for the situation to escalate into violence despite the severity of Israel’s operation to recover the missing boys.

He added that “everything depends on what happens to their safety”.

But he warned that: “Netanyahu’s decision to politicise the situation, by using it to discredit the unity government, is dangerous, because it could lead the kidnappers to take extreme action whatever their original intentions might have been.”

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