Shocker: Did Israel’s Netanyahu Suppress the Fact He Already Knew the 3 teen’s Killers to Stir War?
From the moment three Israeli teens were reported missing last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military-intelligence apparatus suppressed the flow of information to the general public. Through a toxic blend of propaganda, subterfuge and incitement, they inflamed a precarious situation, manipulating Israelis into supporting their agenda until they made an utterly avoidable nightmare inevitable.
Israeli police, intelligence officials and Netanyahu knew within hours of the kidnapping and murder of the three teens that they had been killed. And they knew who the prime suspects were less than a day after the kidnapping was reported.
Rather than reveal these details to the public, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency imposed a gag order on the national media, barring news outlets from reporting that the teens had almost certainly been killed, and forbidding them from revealing the identities of their suspected killers. The Shin Bet even lied to the parents of the kidnapped teens, deceiving them into believing their sons were alive.
Instead of mounting a limited action to capture the suspected perpetrators and retrieve the teens’ bodies, Netanyahu staged an aggressive international public relations campaign, demanding sympathy and outrage from world leaders, who were also given the impression that the missing teens were still alive.
Meanwhile, Israel’s armed forces rampaged throughout the occupied West Bank and bombarded the Gaza Strip in a campaign of collective punishment deceptively marketed to Israelis and the world as a rescue mission.
Critical details that were known all along by Netanyahu and the military-intelligence apparatus were relayed to the Israeli public only after the abduction of more than 560 Palestinians, including at least 200 still held without charges; after the raiding of Palestinian universities and ransacking of countless homes; after six Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces; after American-trained Palestinian Authority police assisted Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian youths in the center of Ramallah; after the alleged theft by Israeli troops of $3 million in US dollars; and after Israel’s international public relations extravaganza had run its course.
The assault on the West Bank arrived on the heels of the collapse of the US-led framework negotiations, for which the US blamed Netanyahu, and immediately after Hamas’ ratification of a unity deal with the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu was still smarting from the US recognition of the unity government when news of the kidnapping reached him. Never one to miss an opportunity to undermine the Palestinians, he and his inner circle resolved to milk the kidnapping for maximum propaganda value.
Weeks after the incident, it is now clear that the Israeli government, intelligence services and army engaged in a cover-up to provide themselves with the political space they required for a military campaign that had little to do with rescuing any kidnapped teens.
The disinformation campaign they waged sent a heavily indoctrinated, comprehensively militarized population into a tribalistic frenzy, provoking a wave of high-level incitement, the shocking revenge killing of an innocent Palestinian teen and rioting across East Jerusalem.
Where the chaos will end and how far it will spread is unknown. But its origins are increasingly clear.
“When [the Shin Bet] told me finally at 6:00am Friday that the army was on the job, I felt better — as if we were in good hands,” Bat Galim Shaar told Israel’s Channel 10. “I was naïve, I told everyone Gilad would be home before Shabbat.”
Having deceived the victims’ parents, Israel’s military-intelligence apparatus moved to conceal the truth from the general public, imposing a gag order that barred the country’s media from reporting on the sound of gunshots in the recorded call to police.
According to the text of the gag order, which was first published in English at Mondoweiss, the military had forbidden Israeli reporters from publicizing “All the details of the investigation” and “All details that might identify the suspect.”
On 17 June, Arabic-language news site Rai Al Youm reported that Israeli police and Shin Bet agents had raided the homes of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe, the main suspects, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. As a Palestinian news outlet based in London, Rai Al Youm was not subject to the Israeli military’s gag order and was therefore free to publish the names of the two accused kidnappers.
Citing a report in the Israeli online news outlet Walla! which was either scrubbed due to the gag order or otherwise rendered inaccessible, Rai Al Youm summarized an account by the father of Abu Eishe as follows: “On Saturday at dawn [two days after the alleged kidnapping was reported], special forces of the Israeli army stormed into the house and interrogated sons of the family trying to find any information that could lead them to his whereabouts but they were unsuccessful.”
Abu Eishe’s father added that the Shin Bet had also arrested his son’s wife to interrogate her about his whereabouts. An uncle of Qawasmeh remarked that four of his nephew’s brothers and his wife were arrested the day after the alleged kidnapping and interrogated.
Rai Al Youm added: “several of the military correspondents in the Hebrew media have reported last Friday on a statement attributed to a Palestinian security official in which he said that the PA [Palestinian Authority] is tracking two Hamas personnel who disappeared last Thursday [the day of the kidnapping] and that the security forces of the PA have given the information they have to Israel. And now it’s clear that this story was true and that Israel is looking for them and has charged them with being behind the kidnapping.”
Allison Deger, a correspondent for Mondoweiss, visited the Qawasmeh home and confirmed that the army and Shin Bet brought several male members of the families in for interrogation on 14 June.
In a normal high-profile criminal investigation, the names of fugitive suspects are widely publicized. Investigators prominently display posters of the wanted criminals in public spaces while police officials stage press conferences appealing for help from the public. In this case, however, Israel’s intelligence services chose to keep their suspects’ identities a closely-held secret for two weeks.
Though Qawasmeh and Abu Eishe were widely identified as veteran members of Hamas’ military wing, they comprised a rogue element that likely acted without the knowledge and against the wishes of Hamas leadership.
According to Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, members of the Qawasmeh clan of Hebron have earned a reputation for attacking Israeli civilian targets during ceasefires between Hamas and Israel.
While an extended family of over 10,000 can hardly be blamed for the actions of some of its members, it is notable that attacks carried out by fighters from the family were privately criticized by top Hamas leaders, as Eldar explains. Hamas leadership regarded the operations as self-destructive acts of freebooting and often paid for them in the form of Israeli assassinations. In each case, the violence shattered ceasefires and inspired renewed bouts of bloodshed.
“The same is true now,” Eldar writes. “Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe have taken Hamas to a place where its leadership never intended to go.”
Hamas leadership has yet to take responsibility for the kidnapping and likely had no knowledge of its planning. As Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel notes, “So far, there is no evidence that Hamas’ leadership either in Gaza or abroad was involved in the kidnapping.” Harel adds that the fallout of the kidnapping “effectively froze the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.”
Why would Hamas leadership have authorized an operation that so clearly threatened to unravel the movement’s political achievements, wrecking the vaunted unity deal and leaving Abbas without rival in the West Bank?