Netanyahu: Palestinian Blood Libel Led to Jerusalem Terror Attack

Prime minister accuses Palestinians of incitement, says ordered homes of two terrorists demolished.

AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said incitement by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad led to a terrorist attack in a Jerusalem synagogue, which killed four worshippers and wounded several others.

"They're saying Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount, that we intend to destroy the holy sites and change the prayer routines there," Netanyahu said in a televised address Tuesday evening. "These lies have already exacted a very heavy toll," he added, noting the victims of recent terrorist attacks.

Netanyahu said Tuesday's attack was the result of a "wild blood libel." According to him, "yesterday a bus driver from East Jerusalem committed suicide. The autopsy report proves this beyond a doubt. This didn't prevent the dissemination of a blood libel that he was murdered by Jews. This incitement contributed to the despicable massacre," Netanyahu said, referring to the death of an Egged bus driver, who was found hanged in his bus in a Jerusalem parking lot on Monday.

Netanyahu added that "this time Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) condemned the massacre, and it's good that he did, but this is not enough, because he later linked it to imaginary, baseless tales."

Netanyahu criticized the international community: "The world sees the massacre, but doesn't demand the Palestinians to stop the wild incitement against Israel, which is the root of the conflict. I want to see shock and sincere abhorrence of these murderous acts," Netanyahu said.

On Tuesday afternoon Netanyahu ordered authorities to demolish the homes of the two assailants, cousins Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber, killed in a shootout with police during the incident.

Netanyahu also instructed the expediting of the process to demolish the homes of Palestinians involved in recent attacks, and ordered enforcement against incitement for terrorism to be increased.

The demolition of several homes has been delayed after the families appealed the process.

Netanyahu's instructions were given following a meeting in his office with senior security officials, among them the defense minister, the internal security minister and the Shin Bet chief.

In the meeting, it was also decided to boost the Border Police in Jerusalem and call up two reserve companies. It is possible that additional forces will be called up to reinforce troops deployed in the West Bank. Two additional companies were already deployed in the West Bank on Tuesday.

Netanyahu and the security officials also agreed to increase the number of arrests and set up road blocks in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.  

Additionally, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said he will act to immediately revoke Ghassan Abu Jamal's wife's permit to stay in Israel. The woman, a resident of the West Bank, has been living in Israel since 2010, and had three children with Abu Jamal. 

Following the attack, large police forces arrived at the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood and arrested 11 of the assailants' family members. Police said during the operation dozens of Palestinians threw stones at the officers.

A relative of the two assailants told Haaretz that they were not affiliated with any group. According to him, the two worked as builders and had no financial problems.

Earlier on Tuesday, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen rejected Netanyahu and other ministers' claims that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is encouraging terrorism. No one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence, Cohen said, noting that Abbas has reiterated that the path of intifada should be rejected.

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] is not interested in terror, and is not leading [his people] to terror," he told members of a Knesset committee after the incident. "Nor is he doing so 'under the table.'” At the same time, however, Cohen admitted that, “There are people in the Palestinian community who are liable to see Abu Mazen’s words of criticism as legitimization for taking action.”

Earlier on Tuesday Netanyahu said incitement by Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas motivated attacks on Jews. "This is a direct result of the incitement lead by Hamas and Abu Mazen (Abbas), incitement that the international community irresponsibly ignores," he said.

Abbas, however, condemned the attack. "The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it," his office said in a statement to Reuters.

Home demolition 

The defense establishment has renewed the home-demolition policy in the past year. In August, the homes of Hussam Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh, who were allegedly involved in the West Bank kidnapping, were demolished, while the home of Marwan Qawasmeh, who was also involved in the kidnapping, was sealed. Marwan Qawasmeh and Abu Aisheh were killed during an attempt to arrest them in September. The home of another terrorist, Ziad Awad – who was accused of murdering police officer Baruch Mizrahi last Passover eve – was also demolished.

In 2005, a military committee ruled that the demolition policy did not achieve its objective, and that the damage caused as a result of petitions to the court was greater than the advantages. The committee, which was appointed by then-IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, recommended that the demolitions be discontinued, claiming they aroused hatred that was stronger than their value as a deterrent against acts of terror.

A senior defense establishment official said the demolition policy in those years was not effective because the terrorists’ families received money after the demolition to build a “bigger and more beautiful house,” according to various sources. However, the official claimed the latest demolitions were effective and have “proved themselves.”

Senior officials in the Shin Bet security service and the army expressed support in recent months for the demolition policy. At the same time, a security source emphasized that, prior to a decision to demolish a terrorist’s home – whether it be in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, each case would be examined individually.