Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday Israel shared the “joy of the American people,” as Israeli officials lauded President Barack Obama’s statement that U.S. forces had assassinated Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
A statement by the Palestinian Authority echoed this sentiment, but Hamas representatives in Gaza condemned bin Laden’s killing as the assassination of an Arab holy warrior. The two factions have recently put together a new unity deal.
In a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu called the U.S. operation a “resounding victory for justice, freedom, and the values shared by all democratic countries fighting shoulder to shoulder against terror.”
Netanyahu later spoke to Obama by phone and “praised the United States on behalf of Israeli citizens for the successful mission and the killing of Osama bin Laden.”
The statement said Netanyahu told Obama that the action “sent a message of the United States’ determination to fight terrorism.” It added that “Obama thanked Netanyahu and clarified the United States’ commitment to the war on terror.”
President Shimon Peres also referred to Obama’s announcement, saying that “bin Laden was one of the great murderers and was destined to be hanged.” Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, described the death as a lesson about the self-destructiveness of violent extremism.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel, which has cast its own struggle with Palestinian and Lebanese militants as an extension of the U.S.-led campaign against Al-Qaida worldwide, gained from bin Laden’s death.
“Al-Qaida has ceaselessly tried to penetrate Gaza and Judea and Samaria,” he told Army Radio. “His interception has operational significance for us, too.”
Israel did not contribute to the American commando raid that killed bin Laden in Pakistan, and was informed of it half an hour before Obama made his official announcement on Sunday night, Lieberman said.
“Look at all the murderers, all those dictators and terrorists. They end up murdering themselves the real verdict of history, which unfortunately takes a lot of time and claims a lot of victims.”
Hamas, however, wound up on the other side of the debate on bin Laden’s assassination.
“We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters.
In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the death of the mastermind of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
“Getting rid of bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide, but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods the violent methods that were created and encouraged by bin Laden and others in the world,” PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said.
In the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Haniyeh accused the United States of pursuing a policy based on “oppression and the shedding of Arab and Muslim blood .... We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior.”
Hamas is due to sign a unity deal this week in Cairo with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ more secular Fatah movement.
Haniyeh’s comments on bin Laden’s death underscored the deep Palestinian divide the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation efforts were meant to close and seemed likely to help drive an Israeli diplomatic campaign against the unity accord.