In a tense telephone conversation yesterday evening following the bloody terrorist attack in Itamar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that condemnations were insufficient and that the Palestinian Authority needed to do more to curb incitement against Israel.
"Violence should be condemned not only because it contradicts the political interests of the Palestinian Authority," Netanyahu told Abbas, who initiated the phone call to express sorrow over the killings. "I expect you to stop the incitement against Israel in schools, textbooks, and mosques, and to educate your children toward peace just as we are doing. The murder of sleeping babies is murder for the sake of murder."
Netanyahu was furious that Abbas issued a condemnation through the Palestinian media just prior to 7:00 P.M. yesterday evening, nearly 24 hours after the attack. The premier was also disappointed at what he considered to be the lenient language of the statement, which did not include a Palestinian pledge to track down the killers.
"I am disappointed by the confused, nonchalant statements made by the Palestinian Authority," Netanyahu said in a brief statement before television cameras yesterday evening. "This is not the way to condemn or to fight terrorism. Such an instance mandates an unequivocal, damning condemnation."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the IDF coordinator for government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, held talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior PA officials on preventing an escalation of violence in wake of the incident.
Netanyahu said that incitement in the Palestinian media and the PA's lionizing of suicide bombers in the last year created the atmosphere which encouraged attacks like the one perpetrated in Itamar.
Netanyahu invited the director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, Yossi Kuperwasser, to attend today's cabinet meeting in order to present "the incitement level" in the PA.
In addition, he leveled harsh criticism at the international community, which in his view dragged its feet before condemning the attack. "A few of the countries that rushed to condemn Israel at the Security Council for building a home in some area are now prevaricating in issuing a harsh condemnation of the murder of babies," the prime minister said.
The Foreign Ministry instructed diplomats in a number of key embassies and missions abroad to emphasize to their counterparts that the attack was a direct result of the de-legitimization campaign waged by the PA against the settlements and their residents, a campaign that has been spurred on by the international community.
Israeli ambassadors demanded that their host countries issue fierce condemnations of the attack. The Israeli delegation to the United Nations submitted an official complaint to the Security Council.
As a result of Israel's diplomatic efforts, the United States, France, Germany, Britain, UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, and other officials strongly condemned the attack.
"To kill three innocent children and their parents while they sleep is an inhuman crime for which there can be no justification," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "The United States condemns this appalling attack in the strongest possible terms. We look to the Palestinian authorities to assist [in capturing those responsible] in every way possible," Clinton said.
Netanyahu urged West Bank settlers to refrain from acts of vengeance, but he also added that the attack would not change the government's stance on settlement construction. "We will not allow terrorism to determine the fate of the settlements," the premier said. "[The policy on settlements] will be determined solely by the government in accordance with our national interests, chief among them security."