President Shimon Peres personally apologized on Tuesday on behalf of the nation to the council head of an Arab town in northern Israel where vandals sprayed graffiti on a mosque earlier in the day.
“As the president of the country I apologize in the name of the citizens of the country to all the residents who were affected,” Peres told Yonis Meree, the head of the Fureidis local council, according to a statement.
The president committed to preserve what he described as the good relations between Jews and Arabs in the area and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“These vile acts are contrary to the Jewish faith and morals… and are contrary to the interests of all citizens of Israel,” he said. “I know the village youth. The good relations between Jews and Arabs in the area are always founded on a deep respect and appreciation of each party to the other. It should remain so.”
Mari assured Peres that he would likewise strive to maintain the good relations.
“We will not be provoked by people who come to ruin the coexistence,” he said. “These violators can’t do that and we need to stand up against these acts and preserve the coexistence. That I assure you of.”
A Star of David was found spray-painted on the walls of the mosque in Fureidis, along with a slogan reading “close mosques and not yeshivas,” likely a reference to the recent seizure by the Border Police of a yeshiva — a center of Jewish learning — in the West Bank settlement of Yizhar.
Police blamed the attack on a fringe group of Jewish extremists
The tires of at least 20 vehicles were also found to have been slashed, and a security camera at the mosque recorded three men in hoodies walking around the mosque the previous evening.
Hundreds of Fureidis residents gathered in the street outside the vandalized mosque on Tuesday morning, and a general strike in the town was called for the following day. Some 500 presidents were participating in a protest rally in the town Tuesday evening, Channel 2 reported.
Yoseff Meree, head of the Fureidis council, told Ynet that “there is no one to stop the suspects” and called on the police to urgently seek out the perpetrators, “before they continue vandalizing mosques and property.”
The incident was “very serious,” he said, adding that Israel’s Arab community “didn’t think to stoop to that level and we didn’t think of vandalizing places holy to the Jewish sector.”
Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by radical Jewish vandals in recent years. The acts have been condemned by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum.