PM vows to deal harshly with ‘un-Jewish’ Abu Ghosh attackers

Politicians right and left express outrage at price tag incident in Arab town, urge police to punish perpetrators at once

Children sit next to a wall in the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Ghosh on June 18, 2013 where anti-Arab graffiti was sprayed overnight. The graffiti reads “racism or assimilation” and “Arabs out.” (photo credit: Flash90).
Children sit next to a wall in the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Ghosh on June 18, 2013 where anti-Arab graffiti was sprayed overnight. The graffiti reads “racism or assimilation” and “Arabs out.” (photo credit: Flash90).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a fierce condemnation Tuesday of the suspected “price tag” attack that occurred earlier that day in Abu Ghosh, declaring that the act was opposed to basic Jewish values.

The prime minister vowed to deal with the perpetrators of the attack with a “heavy hand.”

Speaking ahead of a planned meeting with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Netanyahu declared that “what happened today in Abu Ghosh is against the commandments of Judaism; it is against the values ​​of our people and our country.”

Tuesday morning’s incident in Abu Ghosh, in which vandals slashed the tires of 28 cars and scrawled invective on nearby walls, came after the cabinet’s rejection earlier this week of a proposal to label such activities terrorism. The cabinet did, however, approve measures that would make it easier for authorities to prosecute such attacks.

“This week we passed resolutions that will allow us to act strongly against people who carry out these crimes,” the prime minister said Tuersday. Netanyahu added that authorities intended to crack down on the acts of vandalism “with full force.”

Police opened an investigation into Tuesday’s incident, but have yet to apprehend any suspects.

President Shimon Peres called Abu Ghosh Mayor Salim Jaber on Tuesday to condemn what he referred to as “racist behavior that crosses a red line.”

Peres told Jaber that “the residents of Abu Ghosh are dear to my heart and to the State of Israel; they are symbols of coexistence.”

Jaber told the president that “this is the act of a small group which seeks to destroy the good relations, but we are stronger than them.” He added that the residents of Abu Ghosh “love the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The village’s deputy mayor told Israel Radio that Tuesday’s “price tag” incident was the first one to have occurred in Abu Ghosh.

Right- and left-wing politicians voiced outrage over the attack, with MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) advocating the treatment suspected Jewish perpetrators of such attacks in the same manner as Palestinian terror suspects.

Hasson, a former deputy director of the Shin Bet security service, said in an Israel Radio interview that suspected price tag perpetrators — who, he said, are ideologically-driven people expert in suppressing evidence — should be placed under administrative detention. He called on legal experts to formulate ways in which “price tag” vandals could be prosecuted.

According to Ynet, one of the 28 cars vandalized on Tuesday morning belonged to former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, who had left it with a friend in Abu Ghosh for repairs.

Burg expressed relief that nobody was injured in the incident, and said such attacks were “absolutely shameful… acts of terrorism.”

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said that arrests would be made shortly and warned that these incidents threaten to ignite tensions between Israeli Jews and Arabs.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor Party) reacted by blaming an “extremist minority” for the attacks, which she said cause severe damage to Israel’s image abroad and to the delicate fabric of Jewish-Arab relations at home.

She called it “inconceivable” that Israel’s intelligence apparatus, known internationally for its ability to gather information and to act upon it, has been unable to clamp down on this group of lawbreakers.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett wrote on his Facebook page that such attacks are “immoral and not Jewish,” and accused the perpetrators of “sowing evil.”

“[They are] creating a chain of hatred and violence between Arabs and Jews in our country,” Bennett wrote, and pledged not to let the vandals “give our enemies around the world the tools with which to blacken our faces.”

Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) called Tuesday’s attack “despicable,” but defended the cabinet’s decision not to classify such incidents as acts of terror.

Meretz head Zahava Gal-on blamed the attacks on the “inadequacy of law enforcement agencies” and blasted the decision to not treat the perpetrators as terrorists.

Last month, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich (Yisrael Beytenu) presented a proposal to classify these kinds of attacks as terrorism, in order to increase the tools at police disposal in the battle against a rising number of price tag attacks on non-Jewish targets, including churches and properties of Israeli Arabs and West Bank Palestinians.

The term “price tag” attack is used to describe crimes, typically but not always vandalism or arson of Palestinian property, carried out by extremist Jews as ostensible retribution for Israeli government actions — such as demolition of illegal West Bank construction — which they deem contrary to settler interests.

Located a few miles west of Jerusalem, Abu Ghosh is an Arab village situated among Jewish towns and agricultural settlements, and its 6,000 residents have traditionally enjoyed cordial relations with their Jewish neighbors.

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