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Netanya Square where Israelis were lighting candles in memory of the murdered teens
Photo by Nimrod Gluckman

Photo by Nimrod Gluckman

Beginning of memorial service in Netanya square
Photo by Nimrod Gluckman

Editor's Report in Memory of Our Boys: From the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue to Netanya Israel

By Rhonda Spivak with files from Timothy Bratvold, correspondent for the Winnipeg Jewish Review based in the Judea/ Samaria (West Bank) July 3, 2014

On June 18, I attended the prayer vigil for Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Sha'ar held at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue attended by about 50-60 people, which was organized very quickly by shaarey Zedek, Etz chayim, Herzlia -Adas Yeshuran, chevra mishnayes and Temple Shalom., and facilitated by the Jewish Federation's Engagement Sepcialist Rena Elbaze.


In my heart of hearts, however, I knew then that in all likelihood the boys were murdered, and it would be miraculous if they were found alive. That is because I had received a dispatch from the Winnipeg Jewish Review's exclusive senior correspondent permanently based in the West Bank,Timothy  Bratwold,  in  which Bratwold indicated that there has never been  a case in the West Bank where those kidnapped have not been murdered if the kidnapping has not been interdicted withn the first 12 hours in the West Bank.


In it, Bratwold wrote a particularly insightful analysis that turned out to be very precise and accurate: 


"To the best of my knowledge, any successful kidnapping that hasn’t been interdicted within the first 12 hours has never ended well in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).


"A point in fact:  unlike what happened in Gaza where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, held captive from 2006-2011, and eventually released in a prisoner exchange, the West Bank has a completely different history in regard to kidnappings.  In contrast to Gaza, where the terrorist infrastructure can keep a prisoner alive and sequestered for years using the warren of underground tunnels reaching into Egypt, Judea has no such infrastructure in place.


"Gaza is Hamas land, and any attempt by an informant to aid the Israelis to find prisoners there would end in the immediate death of the informant and his family. Executions of informants in Gaza are routine. In the West Bank, however, the internal  conflict between the Palestinian Authority and  Hamas makes it ripe for informants to leak vital information to the Israelis, who would then soon be able to locate the hiding place of the kidnapped victims—if they were still alive. In the West Bank loyalties are very clannish and there is a constant competition between the PA and Hamas.  You can even have a large family where family members are divided between loyalties to Hamas or the PA, making keeping secrets almost impossible.  (As an aside, many times the internal rivalry between Fatah and  Hamas ends in gunfire as is evidenced by nightly shootouts near the Hebron area that I have heard between the two oppposing sides . These shoot outs are usually never reported since in the Palestinian or Western media.)


"Although there is speculation that the boys are hidden in a cave somewhere in the West Bank, I belive this is not likely since inevitably someone loyal to the PA side would inform on them to the Israelis.


"Statisically speaking, it is not probable that anyone kidnapped in Judah or Samaria, if not found by the Israeli army within 24 hours, will  survive.  The simple fact of life in the West Bank is that the safest way for the terrorist/s to escape capture is to kill the victim, dispose of the body, and then wait and offer an anonymous tip of where the body can be found in exchange for prisoners held in Israeli jails. 


In my view the most likely scenario is that the terrorists likely killed the boys and have hidden the bodies and will open the negotiations at a later date for the return of the bodies to the respective families."


Bratwold also sent me  a further dispatch several days ago in which he indicated that civilain volunteers in the Hebron area were looking in cisterns (that have been around for 1000's of years for the collection of rainwater) in search of the boys.


Yesterday night , after arriving in Israel only a few hours earlier, I walked to the  square  in Netanya and found Israelis congregated there in a memorial service for the murdered teens, with people praying, singing songs and lighting candles. I had not taken my camera but met a professional photographer Nimrod Glickman who so happens to be the photographer for the  annual Canadian hockey tournament in Metula, is a friend of Danny and Orna Spodek (who lived in Winnipeg for over a year and just returned to Israel) and told me about his  trip with Spodek to Flyn Flon. It's a small world and I thank Nimrod for providing these photos to go with this article as a courtesy.



What is important to note on a strategic level is that Israel's operation in the West Bank over the last couple of weeks has weakened Hamas infrastructure. I am of the view that the Obama administration's rather quick decision to embrace the Fatah-Hamas unity government got the Israeli government very worried that the world would allow elections to take place in the West Bank and Gaza where an unreformed terrorist Hamas would be allowed to run in the elctions, and win as it did in 2006.  This would see Hamas rise to power in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a result which Israel wants to avoid at all costs. Netanyahu clearly wants the partnership between Hamas and Fatah to be dissolved, and wants the world to not aquiesce to an unchanged Hamas taking over . Already the ISIS jihadist group which has taken over parts of Iraq has its eye's on overthrowing King Abdullah of Jordan, and to prevent this  Israel will no doubt not be prepared to give up control over  the Jordan valley and have jihadists knocking on its door and threatening takover of Jerusalem. Israel would never want to see a situation where the West Bank would become an active Hamas controlled terror entity.  It's not that  Israel sees Abbas as any saint, but Israel would rather  Abbas's Fatah  re-take  Gaza  than see Hamas rise to power in the West Bank (although Fatah may never manage to takeover Gaza again). A Hamas takeover of the West Bank could also likely imperil the survival of King Abdullah of Jordan.


As Tzippi Livni wrote in the Wall Stree Journal recently:        

"It should be increasingly clear that Hamas agreed to the recent "reconciliation" with Fatah not to advance Palestinian unity or temper its radical agenda. Instead, it has sought, under cover of a political agreement, to reconstitute its terrorist capabilities in the West Bank. And its desire to participate in elections as a political party while remaining a terrorist organization is meant primarily to abuse the Palestinian elections in order to gain legitimacy for its extremist objectives—leveraging its independent terrorist militia to advance this aim. "


As Gerold Steinberg, senior professor of international relations at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, said of Israel's recent operation  “When Israeli security forces conclude their mission, it will be tremendously more difficult for Hamas to take control of the West Bank through elections or violence, as they did in Gaza back in 2007.”


We can only hope that this proves to be the case.


Update July 4: A new Palestinian jihadist group pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIL) has claimed responsibility for the murder of the three teens, as well as other deadly attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Netanyahu has blamed Hamas.  As bad as Hamas is, a salafist Jihadist group taking hold of Gaza  would be worse.  
























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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.