Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai raised hackles on Thursday, after suggesting that the Palestinian terror attack at the Sarona Market plaza in the city was linked to Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinian people.
Speaking on Army Radio a day after the attack at the Max Brenner cafe, which claimed the lives of four people, Huldai said Israel was “maybe the only country in which another people is under occupation and in which these people have no rights.”
“Our leaders through the years have said that the lands [on which settlements are built] are the basis on which a future [Palestinian] state can be built. The problem is when there is no terror, there are no discussions, and when there are talks, we say there can’t be terror attacks,” he went on.
“We can’t keep these people in a reality in which they are occupied and [expect] them to reach the conclusion that everything is all right and that they can continue living this way,” said Huldai, a member of the opposition Labor Party.
The mayor said Israelis must ask themselves if they play a role, “if there’s anything we can do to decrease the levels of loathing between the two peoples.
“On the one hand, we are marking 49 years to the occupation, of which I was a part [as a fighter pilot in the 1967 war]. I know the reality and understand that leaders with courage need to aspire to reach [an agreement] and not just talk about it.
“The facts are that we [as a nation] are suffering [after terror attacks] does not lead us to really understand what needs to be done,” he said.
A change in the situation will come when Israel will show its neighbors that it has true intentions of reaching a peace deal, he argued.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) slammed the mayor for his remarks, saying that “the suggestion that terror attacks occur because of the occupation or because we haven’t signed a peace deal is absurd.”
“It’s time we, right-wingers, tell left-wingers: ‘you are absurd’,” said Ben Dahan.
The Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said that “to blame Israel for the lack of goodwill to make peace is a disgrace.”
Huldai’s comments are “unacceptable,” said Akunis.