Two-State Alarm: Fanning the flames

November 10, 2014

Once more we are seeing terrible violence in Israel and the occupied territory.

Today saw two knife attacks on Israelis. A 25-year-old woman was killed and two people were wounded near the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut. Hours earlier, a soldier was stabbed multiple times in an attack at a Tel Aviv railway station and has just, we’ve learned, died from his wounds.

J Street condemns in unequivocal terms these acts of terror, and the incitement on the Palestinian side that is adding fuel to a very dangerous situation. Tensions are running high throughout Israel and the West Bank. It is a tinder box waiting to explode.

We saw this over the weekend when a 22-year-old Palestinian, Kheir al-Din Hamdan, was shot to death in a clash in the northern town of Kafr Kana after he tried to attack a police vehicle while wielding a knife. That incident set off a wave of violence and unrest across the Galilee by Arab Israelis enraged at the use of deadly force in the incident.

This is surely a time for responsible leaders to calm the situation. But Prime Minister Netanyahu and some top ministers in his government are doing just the opposite. Netanyahu said Israeli Arabs who demonstrated would be “invited” to move to the Palestinian Authority or Gaza. What a terrible message for a minority community in a democratic state!

As usual, Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack without producing any evidence and he called once again for all legal measures — including house demolitions — to be used against the terrorists.

Foreign Minister Lieberman said that some Arab residents of northern Israel should not remain citizens of Israel. “You can’t benefit from the National Insurance Institute, convalescence and unemployment pay while raving and inciting against the state. I think that today this is clear — they must be on the other side of the border.” He also called for Arab-Israeli Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi, who has often criticized Israel in blistering terms, to be put behind bars.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a champion of the settler movement who wants to annex most of the West Bank, called Palestinian President Abbas “a terrorist in a suit who must be treated accordingly.”

These comments are incitement pure and simple. These leaders are making no attempt to calm the situation. Instead, they are whipping up emotions on both sides, paving the way for more violence and more victims in both communities.

We second the words of Finance Minister Yair Lapid who said in a statement that “there is no place for calls for revenge in a country which values life just as there is no place for chants of ‘Death to the Arabs.’ Instead of strengthening us at this difficult time, it weakens us.” And we endorse Labor Leader Isaac Herzog, who said, “The government of Israel must deter terror in our street through security means and in parallel create channels for negotiations.”

We call on the US administration and responsible Israeli and American Jewish leaders to use their influence to calm the situation before it spirals completely out of control. The consequences for the region of a full-scale third Intifada are too serious and tragic to contemplate. We should all be speaking up now to avert such a catastrophe.