The head of Israel’s main Arab political party late Friday afternoon expressed opposition to the use of firearms after three Israeli-Arabs killed two Israeli policemen near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Friday, and said he rejected the “armed struggle.” A firebrand member of his party, meantime, said Friday’s attack was only to be expected given Israel’s policies against the Palestinians.
Joint (Arab) List chairman MK Ayman Odeh issued a lukewarm condemnation of the terror attack, in which two Israeli Druze policemen were killed. “The struggle of Arab citizens is a political struggle and is by no means an armed struggle,” Odeh told Radio A-Shams, an Israeli Arabic-language station. “We wholly oppose any use of firearms by our youths,” Odeh said, according to a translation published by the Walla news website.
Odeh went on to accuse Israel’s prime minister of transforming the conflict into a religious one, however, and demanded the reopening of the Temple Mount, which was temporarily closed after the attack.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, he is the one who wants to turn the conflict from a political conflict to a religious one, and this is why he sponsors provocative entries by settlers to the compound of the [al Aqsa] mosque,” Odeh claimed. “The government must respect the holiness of the Aqsa Mosque and enable the continuation of prayers on the site.”
The slain police officers were identified as Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan, both hailing from Druze villages in northern Israel. Sitawe, 30, came from the town of Maghar, a mostly Druze and Arab city in northern Israel. Shnaan, 22, was from the Druze village of Hurfeish, also in northern Israel. Shnaan was the youngest son of former Labor MK Shachiv Shnaan.
Odeh warned that not allowing prayers on the Temple Mount would only escalate the situation. He also said he believed that coverage of the attack by Israeli media was lacking in prominence and attributed this to the fact that the victims were Druze and not Jewish.
Party colleague Hanin Zoabi said on Israel’s Channel 2 news that attacks such as Friday’s were only “to be expected” given Israel’s repressive policies regarding the Palestinians.
The three gunmen were named by the Shin Bet as Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19 and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19 — all from the northern Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.
Israel Police closed the Temple Mount for Friday prayers after the attack, but Netanyahu stressed that he does not intend to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. The site would be reopened for prayer, but gradually and according to security assessments, Netanyahu said later Friday.
Earlier on Friday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he had asked the mayor of Sakhnin, Mazen Ganaim, to publish a condemnation of the terror attack in the name of all Israel’s Arab local authorities. Ganaim serves as chairman of the Forum of Arab Heads of Local Authorities.
“Immediately after it was published that the terrorists are Israeli Arabs, residents of Umm al Fahm, I passed to Ganaim a demand to publish a strong statement of condemnation,” said Deri. “To my regret, it’s been hours and no such statement has been made. The Arab heads of local councils know how to demand that the government invest in Arab sector communities so they enjoy the same conditions as Jewish communities. They also rightly say that they are citizens of the state and deserve the same. But they cannot have only privileges and no duties. And their duty today is to strongly condemn those who carried out the deadly attack in Jerusalem this morning,” Deri said, according to a report by the Israel National News website.
Ali Salem, Mayor of Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, did send a personal letter condemning the attack to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to Deri.
Late Friday afternoon, Netanyahu ordered police to dismantle mourning tents erected for the terrorists in Umm al Fahm.
In a discussion with Police Chief Ronnie Alsheikh, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Shin Bet security service head Nadav Argaman, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai, Netanyahu said that security arrangements on the routes leading to the Temple Mount should be significantly boosted. The investigation into the circumstances in which the terrorists were able to enter the compound would continue over the weekend, the prime minister said.