NEW YORK — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday lambasted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to condemn the terror attack hours earlier in which an Israeli couple were shot dead in front of their four children, aged 4 months to 9 years.
“I didn’t hear any condemnation from the Palestinian Authority” on the murders of Naama and Eitam Henkin, Netanyahu said bitterly.
“Note that there was this horrible and pretty unique event of the murder of an Arab family in Kfar Duma,” he continued, referring to a terror attack on July 31, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed.
“I, and the entire Israeli leadership, immediately condemned it forcefully,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a briefing in his Manhattan hotel Thursday. “I went to the hospital. We gave any assistance possible. Now compare that to deafening silence, pardon the expression. It’s a deafening silence.”
The Dawabsha family home was firebombed by alleged Jewish terrorists, killing Ali Saad Dawabsha, 18 months old. His parents died of their severe wounds separately, weeks apart. The only surviving member of the family is Ahmed, 5, who remains hospitalized in Israel.
The attack shook Israeli society, drawing condemnation from politicians across the political spectrum who called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Nobody has yet been charged with the crime; Israel introduced detention without trial — administrative detention — for Jewish terror suspects in the wake of the attack, as part of the effort to find the perpetrators and prevent further such attacks.
The prime minister also took Abbas to task for what he described as incitement against Israelis and the spreading of lies about Israel’s alleged intentions to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, where non-Muslims are allowed access but are forbidden from praying there.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said that no such changes were in the offing.
The site, the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, has seen violent clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli security forces over the past several weeks.
In a series of incendiary accusations rejected by Israel, Abbas, during his speech to the UN on Wednesday, also claimed Israel was allowing “extremists” to enter al-Aqsa Mosque and permitting the use of live fire against “peaceful” Palestinian demonstrators.
“It has been proven again that the wild Palestinian incitement leads to acts of terrorism and murder such as we have seen this evening,” the prime minister said.
Responding to a reporter’s question whether Jerusalem should continue viewing Abbas as a partner for peace, Netanyahu said that “if he continues to incite and if he continues to refuse to enter negotiations, it’s evident that he removes himself” from the circle of possible partners for peace.
During his own speech earlier Thursday at the United Nations, Netanyahu called on Abbas to return to the negotiating table, “because there’s always a point in making a last effort, or an additional effort,” he explained.
In his briefing with reporters, Netanyahu clearly placed the blame for the stalemate on Abbas. “During my meeting today with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, I said things in a very straightforward way. I said this man [Abbas] runs away from negotiations. He’s unwilling to sit down and negotiate because during negotiations he’d be required to recognize the Jews’ right to a nation-state of their own, and also to give up on the right of return [for Palestinian refugees] and also to take care of security arrangements, which — everybody understands — are necessary in any agreement. And for his he’s not ready, therefore he finds all kind of excuses,” Netanyahu said.
On Friday morning, Netanyahu is slated to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom he is expected to discuss the possibility of a new round of peace talks.
The State Department condemned the terror attack Thursday, urging “all sides to maintain calm, avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this tragedy, and work together to bring the perpetrators to justice.”