Leading Palestinians have berated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to tie Palestinian terror attacks against Israel to the wave of Islamic radicalism sweeping through the Western world.
Netanyahu has sought on numerous occasions recently to link the threat of global jihad to that faced by Israelis dealing with Palestinian attacks, saying both phenomena were rooted in “the same radical Islam.”
But officials in the Palestinian Authority have dismissed the premier’s claim, saying he is attempting to mislead the public and direct the spotlight away from the real cause of the conflict — the Israeli occupation.
Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the PLO and the Palestinian Legislative Council, told the Washington Post Friday that the recent spate of stabbing attacks against Israelis “ are unorganized. They come from hopelessness, from rage.”
PLO official Hanan Ashwari said Netanyahu was “cynically exploiting the pain of the innocent victims” in Paris “in order to create a misleading linkage and to justify Israeli state terror against the Palestinian people, while presenting Israel as the victim.”
On Sunday Netanyahu, in a video address to the annual Saban Forum at Washington DC’s Brookings Institution, tied the recent shooting in San Bernardino, California to attacks on Israelis.
“The terrorists are attacking in California or in Israel, or for that matter in Paris. They are attacking the very values that we hold dear — freedom, tolerance, diversity,” Netanyahu said.
Following the terror attacks in Paris on November 13, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook: “Behind (terrorist attacks in Israel) stands radical Islam, which seeks to destroy us, the same radical Islam that struck in Paris and threatens all of Europe. Whoever condemned the attacks in France needs to condemn the attacks in Israel. It’s the same terror. Whoever does not do this is a hypocrite and blind.”
But former Meretz party leader Yossi Beilin told the Post that the claim was wrongheaded and unhelpful.
“He makes it into a war of cultures — that it is not settlements or borders, none of that is important, it is a cultural war, it is bigger than Israel; so why does everyone keep demanding that Israel do something to solve the problem? That is what he believes,” Beilin said.
But Kobi Michael, the former head of the Palestinian desk at the Strategic Affairs Ministry, told the Post that Netanyahu was not misleading the public, simply pointing to similarities that do exist.
“Netanyahu knows it is not the same, he knows there are many differences between [Islamic State] and the terrorism Israel faces,” he said, “but there are some links. There is the inspiration and the culture, which is a culture of death, a culture of rejecting the West and what the West represents.”
“When Netanyahu has to speak to the international community and explain what is happening in Israel, he cannot go into details, into the complexities; he has to explain the threat Israel faces by comparing it to (IS), which has become a significant and essential threat to the international community,” he added.
The Shin Bet security services said in November that a “bleak reality,” along with personal problems and false rumors spread on social media, were driving the recent wave of grassroots Palestinian terrorism.
Feelings of national discrimination, as well as economic, personal and psychological problems, provide motivation for the attacks, the Israeli report said.
Though religious issues and Islamic extremism were mentioned as contributing factors, they were not given particular weight in the report.