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As rescue is planned, security ramps up

by Jared Sichel

June 18, 2014 | 11:10 am

Danny Danon

Danny Danon

Shortly after the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teens  — Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel — Palestinian security forces found a torched Hyundai i35 with Israeli license plates near Hebron, just a few miles south of the Highway 60 junction where the teens were abducted. Israeli authorities have neither confirmed nor denied whether it is the car used in the kidnapping.

As of press time, if Israeli intelligence did have insights into the boys’ whereabouts, they certainly weren’t being publicized.

Speaking with the Journal by phone from Israel, Deputy Defense Minister and Knesset member Danny Danon said only, “We are in a preparation to rescue, and we hope to rescue them alive.”

Asked why the government is certain that Hamas is behind the kidnappings, neither Danon nor Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel divulged any information, but reiterated what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday — it was Hamas.

“I can say that there’s no doubt about that,” Siegel said.

[Related: Israelis send prayers and messages of hope — and share their anger]

In March, Danon threatened to resign his post as deputy defense minister and Likud central committee chair if Netanyahu went ahead with a planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, which would have been the last in a series of releases that the Palestinians demanded as a precondition to U.S.-brokered negotiations. 

The release fell through, allowing Danon both to keep his powerful positions in Likud and continue his firm stance against seemingly lopsided and unilateral prisoner releases.

Asked whether he would support or oppose Hamas demands for the release of terrorists in exchange for the three teens, Danon declined to speculate. “We are not in this stage right now,” he said.

Private industry also plays a hand in Israeli security and might have helped to prevent a kidnapping like the one Israel is now dealing with. 

Israeli security expert Marc Prowisor is one of many who have proposed installing a system of surveillance cameras on major West Bank roads, with the hope that such a system might help to prevent terrorist attacks and to locate terror suspects like the ones who took the three boys at a bus stop on Highway 60, a major West Bank artery.

Prowisor runs security for One Israel Fund, a Jewish group in the West Bank that provides social services and security for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live there.

His proposal hit a wall. Although cameras were installed in a few locations, Prowisor told the Journal that the Israeli government wasn’t fully behind it at that time. The military’s budget was too tight and there wasn’t sufficient funding from outside organizations. 

[The kidnapping dilemma: How to respond beyond the search]

Now, Prowisor said, he expects the military and the public to demand something like the surveillance program he proposed. By the sound of it, the system would resemble an intricate web of cameras that British authorities have set up around London, giving security forces additional resources in preventing and responding to terrorist activity. 

Prowisor believes the Israeli government’s recent willingness to trade dozens, hundreds or even thousands of Palestinian prisoners has increased the danger of kidnappings.

“Because Israel exchanged 1,000 Arab prisoners for one Israeli,” Prowisor said, Hamas believes that kidnapping Israelis and holding them for ransom “is the way to go.”

“That’s why there have been so many attempts in the last year,” he concluded, referencing the 14 kidnapping attempts that the Shin Bet security service is said to have foiled since January.

Danon suggests American Jews should pressure Congress and the Obama administration to cut off funding to the Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas.

Coincidentally, on June 12, the day of the kidnapping, 88 U.S. senators wrote a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern over the administration’s decision to continue allocating about $400 million annually to the unity government.

“Besides praying and hoping,” Danon said, “Stop funding the [Palestinian Authority] unity government.”

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