When it comes to terror attacks in Israel, there is little new under the sun unfortunately. Politicians, pundits and other public figures may raise a hue and cry with each new attack, declaring it as the start of something new and terrible or the crossing of yet another red line, but too much of it has become depressingly rote by now.
Yet despite the gloomy regularity of terror attacks, the inhumanity and bloodshed a constant fixture, one spot had somehow remained beyond it all, a sacred space whose position as the fulcrum of the world and so many of the tensions that have wracked Israel and its neighbors had somehow placed it beyond the bloody pale.
An attack at the Temple Mount Friday, ending with the death of an assailant on the holy esplanade itself, broke the invisible eggshell protecting the site and is indeed the rarity that is something new — horrible and new, both because of the location and the identity of the attackers (but unfortunately not the victims) garnering the lion’s share of coverage in Sunday morning’s papers.
Because of the timing of the attack, the papers did not hit newsstands until nearly two days after the last shots rang out in the Old City of Jerusalem, but there is still plenty to say, from the actual news and reactions, to pundits and commentators offering their own takes and unsolicited advice on how best to deal with everything.
While Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page plays up the location of the attack — splashing “Terror mount” across a blurry screen capture of the attackers being shot (since who doesn’t appreciate a good pun at a time like this) — Israel Hayom’s highlights the “bravery” of the two killed cops and the fact that metal detectors were not placed at the entrances to the site, kicking off the blame game.
“If there had been metal detectors at the gates, the attack could have been stopped,” the tabloid quotes a senior police official saying, detailing Israel’s various flirtations with putting up metal detectors there and Jordanian complaints about it given the sensitivity of the site.
That sensitivity also plays into Haaretz’s main headline, which highlights both the attackers’ origin — inside Israel, in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm — as well as the location of the attack and the fact that the Temple Mount was closed in response — with a front page picture of Muslims praying on a closed road nearby displaying the upshot of that decision.
“The past teaches that shuttering the Temple Mount, even partially, escalates the tension and violence in the neighborhoods around it and infuriates the Arab world,” the paper’s Nir Hasson writes.
Yedioth calls the Temple Mount “a volcano,” going into Jordanian anger over the closure and interviewing disappointed tourists “who didn’t understand why they weren’t being allowed in.”
But much of the focus in the paper (and the others) is on the people — both victims Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan and the killers — and not the lifeless rocks that inspire some to fight. With Druze and Israeli flags, the paper runs as a headline “Haiel and Kamil were killed for the country they loved,” a quote from a Druze man whose connection to the two is not clear.
As for the killers, who hailed from Umm al-Fahm, the papers are filled with dispatches from the town and how the attackers fit into the Arab Israeli society and larger Israeli tapestry.
Yedioth calls Umm al-Fahm a “city under siege,” describing police operations against the “internal enemies.” Israel Hayom features interviews with relatives of the attackers, giving the same old “He was a good kid, he never showed any signs” shpiel.
Columnist Oded Granot repeats the idea that the three were brainwashed, blaming the Arab leadership for putting the trio on the path to becoming attackers.
“They’ll say one cannot stain with this crime all of Israel’s Arabs, most of whom are law-abiding citizens. But in the same breath, one cannot assume that in Arab towns, like Umm al-Fahm, considered a bastion of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, one will not find more youths brainwashed by incitement, who will seek to follow their friends,” he writes.
The strange, somewhat coincidental confluence of Israeli Arabs killing Israeli Druze in a terror attack far from both their homes in northern Israel leads Rafik Halabi, mayor of Druze town Daliyat al-Carmel, to pen a column on what it means for the minorities’ national identities.
“Who is Israeli? Not the three attackers from Umm al-Fahm. They are brainwashed Muslim zealots, as is anyone who agrees or identifies with them. Israeli is MK Shakhiv Shnaan, whose son was killed while guarding the Temple Mount, the most flammable site in the Middle East,” he writes. “It’s time for leadership, and I ask, who will lead? … The time has come for brave, sane, quiet leadership which will hear the cries of the hurting masses and lead us forward to peace. Now is the time to calm nerves and try to save the country.”
That was likely what was on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mind when he spoke to Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend, and he wins rare praise from Haaretz columnist Barak Ravid, who sees an opening for the US to push along peace negotiations.
“Maybe Netanyahu and Abbas can’t conduct negotiations on a permanent agreement right now, but they can show that when necessary they can work together on issues where their interests converge. There’s no need to wait another year or until the next serious attack to hold more phone calls or even meet face to face for the first time in seven years,” he writes.