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Contadictory Signals from Palestinian Authority on Abduction of Israelis


Credit: AFP/File Petras Malukas

By now, everyone has heard about the abduction of three Israeli teenagers on Thursday night in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank. Everyone has heard the reports about one of the kidnapped teenagers calling Israeli police shortly after being kidnapped to ask for help and the slow response of the Israeli police. Everyone has heard about the 2,000 Israeli soldiers that have descended upon the Hebron area in order to do everything possible to find the missing young men. And everyone has heard about the arrests of dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members.

But less attention is being paid to the discourse going on about the Palestinian Authority’s reaction to the kidnapping. On the one hand, some publications, including The New York Times, ran articles that highlighted how the Palestinian Authority’s security forces are helping Israel search for the teenagers. Other publications, such as Israel National News, noted that Abbas had pledged to help Israel in the search, yet highlighted a few cartoons posted on official publications of the Palestinian Authority that seemed to support the kidnappings. One of these cartoons, posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page (the Fatah party dominates within the Palestinian Authority) depicts the three kidnapped teenagers as rats that had been tricked into going after a fisherman’s bait with a caption reading “master stroke”:

Contadictory Signals from Palestinian Authority on Abduction of Israelis

Another cartoon, which was published in Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida, a newspaper with close ties to the Palestinian Authority, depicts the three young men who were kidnapped stuck in the three hands that make up the logo for the 2014 FIFA World Cup currently going on in Brazil:

Contadictory Signals from Palestinian Authority on Abduction of Israelis

One more caricature was posted on Fatah’s Facebook page that plays off the traditional victory sign of two fingers, yet instead shows an alternative three fingers:

Contadictory Signals from Palestinian Authority on Abduction of Israelis

All of this puts the Palestinian Authority in the very odd position of supporting the kidnappings through its media while at the same time working with Israel to help find the missing teens. A lot of factors are at play here, among them being that Abbas does not want to alienate the Palestinian population — to whom the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel is very unpopular. Yet, Abbas also does not want to lose his credibility in the eyes of the international community as a moderate leader who can govern and maintain order among his people effectively. The coming days will influence which of these images gains traction.

How this event unfolds will also play a large part in determining the immediate future of Israeli-Palestinian-American relations. While predictions would not be wise, one thing can be said with a fair level of certainty: One cannot expect America to push Israel to make concessions or re-enter bilateral talks with the Palestinians while the whereabouts of the Israeli teens remain unknown.



Justin Scott Finkelstein

Justin Finkelstein recently received a Master's degree from New York University in Near Eastern Studies. He has spent most of his academic career and thereafter studying the Arab-Israeli conflict. His Master's thesis explored and analyzed the competing histories of the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem (1947-1949) and the potential for its solution.

He is currently a Research Associate at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia. He has traveled to both Israel and Morocco and has attended the Middlebury Arabic School program.