A bus bombing on Sunday and stabbing attack Monday have sparked heated debate among politicians over the culpability of Palestinian Authority leaders and the future of the US-brokered peace talks.
“Israel is continuing with the diplomatic process as though there’s no terror, while the Palestinians are continuing with the terror as though there’s no diplomatic process,” charged Economy Minister Naftali Bennett Monday night.
Bennett, whose Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party opposes the current talks and supports Israeli annexation of much of the West Bank, insisted the PA was culpable for the terror because of the climate of hostility to Israel it has maintained in the West Bank. “When you educate your children to terrorism from kindergarten, when your television broadcasts paint Jews as monsters, when even Tel Aviv is missing from your map – you’re a terrorist,” he said in a statement Monday.
On Sunday, a bomb blew up inside a bus that had been evacuated minutes earlier in the coastal city of Bat Yam, in what officials said was a narrowly averted a terror attack.
On Monday, a police officer was stabbed in the back while directing traffic in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem. The perpetrators, thought to be Palestinian, escaped in both cases, leading to large manhunts. Monday also saw a rocket fired from Gaza land near an Ashkelon-area children’s bus stop.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon connected the bus bombing to next week’s expected round of prisoner releases.
“In a normal country, when a bus explodes on Sunday and a police officer is stabbed on Monday, you don’t release terrorists as a ‘gesture’ the following week,” he said.
A group of 26 prisoners, in jail for crimes dating to before the beginning of the Oslo peace process in 1992, are slated to be released as part of a US-brokered deal to bring the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table in peace talks.
The releases, of which four are planned, have been met with opposition from lawmakers and families of terror victims, especially following terror incidents in the past several months.
Five siblings from the Schijveschuurder family, whose parents Mordechai and Tzira and three siblings aged 14, four and two were killed in the 2001 bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in central Jerusalem, have petitioned the High Court of Justice against the expected release.
The High Court has already ruled that the prisoner release decision was within the constitutional purview of the government. According to Israel Radio, the new petition asks the court to demand specific guidelines for release of prisoners convicted of terrorism, and stay the next round of releases until the state provides such guidelines.
The High Court is expected to hear the appeal on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, some voices on the left urged that the spike in terror attacks in recent weeks not deter the government from continuing the peace talks.
MK Eitan Cabel, Labor’s Knesset faction chair, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of leading the country “down the path of obstinacy in which it is headed today – an introverted, boycotted, partner-less country.”
“Lately,” he said, “we’ve been hearing about efforts to renew the diplomatic process… Despite the bombing attempt [in Bat Yam], we must continue the process with all our energies.”
Despite the uptick in violence, the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, told church leaders in East Jerusalem on Monday that the IDF will ease restrictions on travel for Christians in order to facilitate their travel to holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere for the celebration of Christmas.
This included granting entry permits into Israel for over 21,000 Christians from the West Bank and some 500 from Gaza, Dangot said.