The Scariest Thing About the Tel Aviv Terror Attack

Tel Avivians were shocked by last Friday's shootings in the city, which left three people dead, but Netanyahu's incitement-filled speech afterward was truly horrifying.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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Netanyahu speaking at the site of an attack that killed two and wounded seven in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2016.
Netanyahu speaking at the site of an attack that killed two and wounded seven in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. How is it that in just a few minutes, one young man managed to cast a menacing shadow over the biggest and most carefree city in Israel, like a movie that even Hitchcock could not have created. All that without high-tech cameras or fancy backdrops.

The entire scene did not last more than a few minutes. No one had to teach the star of this horror movie how to move around on set. He strode in, a bag on his shoulder. In his hand he held a plastic bag, into which he scooped some nuts and then emptied them back, as if deciding not to buy them. And then, after a few steps toward the exit, nonchalantly, while adjusting something in his pack, in a flash he leaped outside, straight to the bar at his left – and to murder in broad daylight. All this on Dizengoff Street, in the very heart of the first Hebrew city.

At first, no one knew who he was. It was only when the shop’s security camera immortalized him that residents of a different area of Tel Aviv realized they knew the man. He made deliveries for nearby grocery stores. Many of them recognized him as someone who came to their homes bringing fresh fruit and vegetables. Needless to say, a few of them were panic-stricken. He had been welcoming and had a sense of humor, they said, trembling slightly. But city dwellers soon stopped marveling at him. They went back to doing what they do best: being alarmed.

Tel Aviv has suffered mass-casualty terror attacks before – Jews have been indiscriminately murdered on buses, in cafés and restaurants. But most of all, Tel Avivians feared the Iraqi missile attacks that ravaged nerves for 40 days and 40 nights during the first Gulf War. These missiles mainly made a lot of noise, and rarely hit. But while the Palestinians were “dancing on the rooftops,” as the media reported back in 1991, thousands of Israelis fled from Tel Aviv. Unlike London, which during the Blitz was the daily target of German bombers.

And now, one man wreaked this kind of terror because of one attack. One terrorist, whose identity is known to the authorities, not to mention his customers from the produce stores.

The new Israel Police chief, Roni Alsheich, who had the misfortune of breaking his leg just before his coronation, conducted himself oddly in his first public appearance in the new job. He called on the “state of Tel Aviv” to return to normal and not worry. How can we not worry? His message was basically, “I’m okay, I’m from the Shin Bet security service; no one leaked to the media on my watch.”

Cabinet ministers Naftali Bennett and Gilad Erdan reassured the public with the idiotic argument that one can die from the flu or in a car accident, too, while elders of the city complained that not even during the British Mandate were people’s homes raided: “They turned our closets inside out, as if the terrorist was hiding on a shelf.

But the one who really scared us was none other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who brought his official lectern with him and stood in front of images of the victims and the blood. He delivered a speech filled with incitement, which a casual observer described as an attempt to divert attention from his wife’s questioning by police the previous day. The speech of a true leader.

The Arabs aren’t as stupid as the Greater Israel adherents think. They’ve been studying us inside and out for at least 70 years. Our interest is to strive for equal opportunities. Moshe Arens, who as defense minister began drafting Druze into the Israel Defense Forces, pointed to the Jabotinskian ideal of living as equal partners with the Arabs.

But Netanyahu is busy with incitement and games theory: He finds the time to warn the cabinet to prepare for the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority. He proposes increasing funding for the country’s Arab community as a gesture, but reneges and makes it a favor, contingent on “good behavior.” As if he didn’t know that walls are not built with threats and ultimatums. It’s absolutely not funny: If we don’t learn to live with the Arabs, they will be the ones to have the last laugh.

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