Netanyahu: Abu Ghosh 'price tag' attack goes against Jewish values
Israeli officials and lawmakers react harshly to attack in which tires of 28 cars were slashed, anti-Arab graffiti scrawled.
"What happened today in Abu Ghosh goes against Judaism's mitzvot and against the values of our people and our state," Netanyahu said before meeting Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.
"Just this week we made decisions that allow us to act more forcefully against the people who commit these crimes and we will do so with full force," Netanyahu added, referring to the cabinet decision that stopped short of calling the perpetrators of price tag attacks "terrorists," and instead deeming them part of forbidden organizations, similar to groups that funnel money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Netanyahu's reaction joined the chorus of Israeli officials who condemned the attack, including Shas leader Aryeh Deri, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and other ministers and lawmakers.
Anonymous assailants slashed the tires of 28 cars and sprayed graffiti reading "Arabs out" scrawled on a wall in Abu Ghosh overnight Tuesday. Police opened an investigation into the incident, believed to be the first suspected "price tag" attack in the Israeli-Arab town located just several miles west of Jerusalem.
Abu Ghosh Mayor Salim Jaber responded to the incident, saying, "There are extremists everywhere, but they don’t reflect the majority opinion."
The mayor lamented the attack in his town, but said, "It won’t change our policy or behavior. We remained in our village in 1948 – our village was the only one to stay put – and no one will drive us out." Abu Ghosh generally enjoys good relations with its Jewish neighbors.
Jaber told Army Radio that some 50 Jewish families live in Abu Ghosh and described them as "good people, peace-seekers." He doesn't believe any of Abu Ghosh's Jewish residents were involved in the crime. "Jewish and Arab neighbors called me and they are encouraging us," he said, "I believe police will find the perpetrators."
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the attack, calling it "immoral and un-Jewish" on his Facebook page. There is a small group of people who wish to bring about hatred and violence between Arabs and Jews in our country, Bennett said. "This group puts our tools in the hands of our enemies that tarnish our good name. We will not let them succeed," he added.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) also condemned the incident and lashed out at the government which he said, "approves racist laws and refuses to call the 'price tag' activists a terrorist organization." Tibi said that by doing so, the government shares the responsibility for such hate crimes.
"The government radiates discrimination, racism and hatred toward Arab citizens and that's what every right-wing punk absorbs." Tibi added that it's not only the tires in Abu Ghosh that have been pierced – Israel's legal system has as well.
Peace Now director general Yariv Oppenheimer also drew a connection between recent legislation in Israel and Tuesday's incident, saying, "The day after a law is passed that discriminates against Arabs and does not classify price tag attacks as terror, on the ground people act accordingly."
President Shimon Peres called Jaber on Monday and condemned the act. The incident overnight in Abu Gosh, Peres said, was "a racist behavior which crossed a red line." The president asked to strengthen the residents and said that the people of Abu Gosh are "dear to my heart and are a symbol for coexistence in the State of Israel."
Jaber thanked Peres and asked to convey a clear message of tolerance. "We, the residents of Abu Gosh, love the Jewish people and the state," he said.
Peres also spoke with police commissioner Yohanan Danino earlier on Monday, who gave the president updates on the progress of the investigation.
Danino warned that the incident in Abu Ghosh could unleash riots in Israel and the West Bank. During a committee meeting in the Knesset on Tuesday, he vowed to apprehend the perpetrators.