Lapid blames PM, Ben Gvir for violence; Ra’am chair condemns synagogue arsons

Yesh Atid leader says PM allowed the far-right MK to ignite the country; Mansour Abbas calls torching synagogues ‘contrary to Islam’

A synagogue in the central Israeli city of Lod torched during a night of heavy rioting in the city, on May 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A synagogue in the central Israeli city of Lod torched during a night of heavy rioting in the city, on May 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Sunday lambasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “allowing” extreme-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir to lead Israel into the ongoing ethnic violence.

“If we had a government, security considerations wouldn’t interfere with political considerations,” Lapid tweeted, and “no one would let a certified wacko like Itamar Ben Gvir ignite Jerusalem, and then the entire country.”

Tensions between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities have spiraled into mob violence, turning some ostensibly ethnically mixed cities into veritable war zones as police have appeared unequipped to handle the most serious internal unrest to grip the country in years.

Several people, Jewish and Arab, have been assaulted and seriously wounded in shooting incidents and beatings during the unrest.

Tensions began to flare in recent weeks surrounding events in East Jerusalem, including plans to evict several Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where right-wing Jews have been buying homes. Ten days ago, Ben Gvir briefly set up a “parliamentary office” in the neighborhood and evacuated it after Netanyahu reportedly warned him it could provoke rockets from Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Yair Lapid (R). (Flash90)

“No one would have asked themselves why the fire always breaks out just when it is most convenient for the prime minister,” Lapid went on to write, likely referring to his inability to form a government coalition as negotiations stalled amid the violence, and Lapid’s potential partner — Yamina’s Naftali Bennett — abandoned him and turned back to negotiations with Netanyahu’s Likud.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has also reportedly accused Ben Gvir of being responsible for the ongoing riots and fanning the flames.

Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of a far-right party, stands with police guarding a Palestinian home claimed by right-wing Jews in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, May 6, 2021 (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

“The person who is responsible for this intifada is Itamar Ben Gvir. It started with the Lehava protest at Damascus Gate,” Shabtai reportedly said last week, referring to far-right demonstrations around Jerusalem’s Old City organized by an extremist group affiliated with the MK. “It continued with provocations in Sheikh Jarrah, and now he is moving around with Lehava activists.”

Lehava opposes intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have sought to designate it as a terrorist group.

In Lod, a central city with Jewish and Arab populations that has become an epicenter of the ethnic violence wracking the country, a curfew was imposed at 8 p.m. on Saturday for the fifth night in a row.

The curfew came in response to violent rioting in the city which also resulted in at least 10 synagogues being torched, according to the Walla news site.

Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party, gives a press statement after meeting with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The chairman of the Islamist Ra’am party, Mansour Abbas, condemned the synagogue arsons on Sunday as a “mistake of a small group.”

“It is forbidden to harm holy places; whoever does so acts contrary to Islam. The red line is any type of violence,” Abbas said. “We need to look ahead and begin the restoration of the holy places, and the relationship [between Jews and Arabs],” he added.

On Sunday, the Shin Bet security service said it had arrested five Bedouin from southern Israel on suspicion of assaulting Jewish drivers last Tuesday.

The five allegedly stopped four cars on the Route 6 highway near the town of Lakiya and attacked the passengers.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, 106 people across the country have been indicted over the violence on charges of assaulting officers, endanger lives, taking part in rioting, rock-throwing, and arson, among others.

Since Tuesday, some 112 Jewish homes have been torched and another 386 looted amid the rioting, according to the Walla news site. It said there has been one case of an Arab home being torched, which resulted in the injury of two children — a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl in Jaffa.

The firebombing in Jaffa was allegedly committed by Arab Israelis, in an apparent case of “mistaken identity,” an unnamed police official told Walla.

Surveillance footage from the incident showed two hooded figures walking in an alleyway near the home before it was attacked. The official added that police know the identity of the attackers, as they attempt to locate them.

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