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Henkin murders won’t go unanswered, vows Netanyahu

A day after West Bank terror attack and shooting in Oregon, PM tells Kerry that US and Israel are ‘united in grief’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and PM Netanyahu in New York, October 2, 2015 (Ronen Pollak)
US Secretary of State John Kerry and PM Netanyahu in New York, October 2, 2015 (Ronen Pollak)

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday vowed to increase efforts to locate and bring to justice the terrorists who killed an Israeli couple Thursday night as they traveled with their four children in the West Bank.

Meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York, Netanyahu condemned Palestinian Authority officials for applauding the terrorist attack, and called on the international community to hold Ramallah accountable for its failure to denounce terrorism.

“This murder will not pass without a response,” Netanyahu said. “We have already increased our forces in the field. We are changing the forces’ operations in the field, and we will find these murderers and bring them to justice. Most importantly, we will take action that will ensure there’s no reward for terror.”

If the Palestinians don’t fight terrorism, Israel will, the prime minister vowed. “That’s the call that the international community must place on the Palestinian Authority, and immediately. But I want to make this clear: we’re going to fight these terrorists.”

The prime minister thanked Kerry for condemning the murders of Eitam and Naama Henkin, and noted that he had yet to hear Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounce the deadly attack.

“Worse, I heard senior officials from his Fatah movement praise this action. They say this is the way to go. No, it’s not the way to go. The way to go for any conceivable arrangement is fight terrorism and make sure terrorism reaps no rewards,” he vowed.

The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, announced on Friday that it carried out the terror attack.

Referring to Thursday’s shooting at a Oregon community college that killed nine people, the prime minister said that Israel and America “are united in grief.”

Kerry repeated his government’s expression of condemnation and condolences. “But our hearts go out to people in Oregon, too, where we’ve had our own violence in our own country,” he said. “So that’s really what brings me here today, to talk to you about the violence. Too much, particularly in your part of the world. And you know this because you live with it every single day,” he told Netanyahu.

There are ways to “take constructive steps” to address terrorism “over the long term,” Kerry said, without specifying. “So we’re sharing with you the grief that Israel feels today. I hope we can share also the efforts going forward that can reduce and maybe ultimately one day even eliminate any families having to go through these kinds of losses.”

Friday’s meeting, which took place in Netanyahu’s Manhattan hotel and concludes the official part of his current trip to New York, was their first meeting since the Iran nuclear accord was finalized in July.

During their joint statements, neither Netanyahu nor Kerry mentioned the Iran deal. There are indications, however, that the prime minister considers that his speech Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly in effect concludes his vocal opposition to the accord and its confirmation by US Congress.

“They told us right after the speech that the Iran part was intended to close the chapter on the deal…time will tell if this is the case,” a senior US official told Haaretz, quoting Netanyahu’s aides.

According to the paper, the American officials understand that the prime minister is “ready to move on” and start discussing deeper cooperation on bolstering Israel’s security and efforts to thwart Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region.

Netanyahu did not deny the report during a briefing with Israeli reporters Thursday evening, but refused to elaborate. “I did not give any approval to the deal,” he insisted.

During his speech Thursday, Netanyahu said he and the US administration agreed on the importance of keeping Iran from arming its terrorist proxies. “We agree on the need to stop Iran from destabilizing countries throughout the Middle East,” he said.

“Israel deeply appreciates President Obama’s willingness to bolster our security, help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge and help Israel confront the enormous challenges we face.”

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