SCOOP: An Israeli source confirmed via the military that it has received “reliable intelligence” confirming that the three teenage Israeli kidnap victims were murdered. The IDF mission has now been changed from a rescue to recovery operation. The IDF is focussing its search efforts on the area north of Hebron. The source also confirmed that today’s announcement the IDF was drastically scaling back its operations (i.e. invasion) in the West Bank was directly related to the new information.
Further, one might speculate that Netanyahu feels he’s inflicted enough collective punishment on Palestinians and that going any farther is liable to draw the U.S. into the fray on the Palestinians’ behalf. It may be no accident that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had a phone call yesterday with Bogie Yaalon in which:
He [Hagel] also updated Ya’alon on U.S. views on the events unfolding in the Middle East…
That sounded so marvelously vapid that I had to wonder whether it meant that Hagel chewed out Yaalon and told him to get the hell out of there pronto. It may mean that given the confirmation of the murder of the boys, the IDF feels there is no further justification for such a large force operating in Palestine. It also appears that so much damage has been done both to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship and to Israel’s image in the foreign media, that Israel’s leadership thought this might be an opportune time to scale back. A little speculation on the nature of the intelligence affirming the murders. It could’ve come from interrogations of the 500 detainees currently in Israeli custody. Though I’m not sure why it took 12 days to elicit the information. But I wonder whether the new details emanated from the Palestinian side. Could the PA security services or even Hamas itself have made a deal with Israel to convey the new material in return for Israel scaling back its invasion? If any of this is true, it would indeed be extremely sensitive since Palestinian collusion or cooperation with Israel is a dangerous topic for Palestinians. I also couldn’t help wondering whether today’s announcement that Palestinian prisoners were ending their hunger strike might be part of a package deal worked out between the Israeli and Palestinian sides that included this definitive information about the murders. One way to test this out is to determine whether the victims’ bodies are found in a relatively short time or whether the search takes longer. Finding them in a brief period would indicate there might be specific intelligence Israel is using that it developed from these sources. If it takes longer it may mean that Israel has no specific direction regarding where to search. There is great dissension between the IDF and Shin Bet over the paucity of good intelligence developed by the latter. Yediot Achronot wrote (as told by Middle East Monitor):
Israeli media reported on Tuesday that, 12 days after the disappearance of three settlers, some officers in the Israel Defence Forces are expressing disappointment over the investigation carried out by the Shin Bet internal security agency. According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the investigation carried out by Shin Bet has not yielded any results that could benefit the IDF in its operations involving thousands of Israeli soldiers.
The newspaper quoted a senior officer in Israel’s Central Command as saying that the IDF has no information on the kidnapped young men. He expressed his disappointment for the failure of Shin Bet to provide information during the Israeli campaign to arrest hundreds of Palestinians over the past two weeks. “Without intelligence information, it is almost impossible to search houses and wells in areas with a population size of 700,000 people,” he said. “We will have to ask ourselves some difficult questions.” He added his criticism of Shin Bet for only now issuing warnings about Palestinian intentions to kidnap illegal settlers.
It appears that Israel’s highest intelligence echelons failed in this operation both in preventing it and in solving it after it happened. It indicates, as I posted last night, that Israel’s vaunted security services often are found wearing no clothes, just like the proverbial emperor.