After TA bombing, right-wingers rally for ‘war against terrorism,’ left-wingers warn against escalation

‘This shocking violence further underlines the urgent need for an immediate de-escalation of violence and a full ceasefire,’ UK foreign secretary says

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of a bus bombing on a Tel Aviv passenger bus on Wednesday (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of a bus bombing on a Tel Aviv passenger bus on Wednesday (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

Aside from a universal condemnation of terrorism and sympathy for the victims, Israeli politicians had rather different reactions to Wednesday’s bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv in which 21 people were injured — the first such attack in the country’s cultural capital since 2006.

Some politicians on the right responded to the terror attack with calls for a ground invasion into Gaza, while left-wingers said an escalation of violence would simply make the prospects for a long-lasting peace even more distant.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the government in Jerusalem had still not officially commented on the attack, while Washington and London have already released statements condemning it.

“We must declare war on the terrorists wherever they may be,” Likud MK and Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon said. Danon said he had called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after learning of the terror attack in Tel Aviv and urged him to intensify Operation Pillar of Defense.

“The time for restraint is over,” Danon said. “It is time for us to initiate ‘Defensive Shield 2′ against the sources of terror in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, just like we did in 2002. At the same time, we must identify and apprehend those within Israel’s borders who cooperate with the terrorists.”

Opposition leader and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, who on Tuesday night had spoken out against a ceasefire with Hamas, on Wednesday again encouraged the government to widen Operation Pillar of Defense. “It’s time to strike at terror with all our might,” he declared. “The IDF and the Shin Bet know how to reach anyone, anywhere,” he said, adding that he “fully backs” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he decided to continue and even expand the Gaza offensive.

Mofaz said on Army Radio that Hamas was “still standing,” that Israel’s deterrent capability had not been boosted, and the security situation in the south had certainly not improved. “We need a decisive outcome,” Mofaz said.

Moshe Feiglin, a prominent member of the Likud’s far-right wing, blamed Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza for the current escalation of violence, and urged the government to reoccupy the Strip. “We must admit that abandoning Gush Katif was major mistake. Time to return and rebuild — that’s our response to the bus attack in Tel Aviv,” he tweeted.

Dov Khenin, an MK for the far-left Hadash party, condemned the attack in Tel Aviv, saying “any deliberate targeting of civilians is a crime.” But in a statement released on Facebook, he seemed to blame the government for pursuing a misguided policy to stop terrorism: “It hurts so much to have to again say that wars do not bring security. If we won’t be able to reach a [peace] agreement here, we will slide back to the very dark days.”

MK Ahmad Tibi tweeted: “To express happiness to the explosion in a bus in Tel Aviv is horrible.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu, who was sitting in a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when the explosion in Tel Aviv occurred, did not publicly comment on the event for hours after it occurred. His spokesperson also had no initial comments on Wednesday afternoon, telling The Times of Israel that the government will issue an official statement later on Wednesday.

Netanyahu was preempted by his envoy to Washington, Ambassador Michael Oren. “I condemn the horrendous bombing attack on a Tel Aviv bus & wish a full & swift recovery to the many wounded. Terror will not defeat us,” Oren tweeted.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague was the first Western leader to issue an official statement on the attack, saying his government is “deeply concerned” about the reports of a terror attack in Tel Aviv but continues to urge a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas.

“…we condemn it unreservedly. We are clear that terrorists must not be allowed to set the agenda,” he said in a statement. “This shocking violence further underlines the urgent need for an immediate de-escalation of violence and a full ceasefire. We urge all those involved to do everything they can to give maximum support to Egyptian-led efforts to allow them to succeed.”

A short while later, the White House also commented.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those injured, and with the people of Israel,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said, according to US media reports. “These attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous.”

“The United States will stand with our Israeli allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. The United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed shock at the news of the bus bombing in Tel Aviv. “He condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms,” according to a statement released by his office. “There are no circumstances that justify the targeting of civilians. The Secretary-General is saddened and expresses his sympathy to those injured in the blast.”

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