A series of opposition parliamentarians on Sunday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of stirring up hostility toward Israeli Arabs and failing in his duties to protect citizens from terror, after he criticized “wild incitement” against Israel in the Arab community and vowed to compel national loyalty from Arabs in the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting in Tel Aviv. The suspect in the fatal attack, still on the run, is Israeli Arab Nashat Milhem.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, a member of the opposition Zionist Union party, said Netanyahu’s Saturday night speech at the scene of the shooting showed a man “frustrated” by his failure to provide security for Israelis and “lashing out” at the entire Arab sector. His “security thesis” has collapsed, said Huldai, and he is blaming the Israeli Arab community. Likud sources promptly accused Huldai — a possible candidate for the Zionist Union leadership — of “playing politics” in the aftermath of the tragic shooting.
MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint (Arab) List also denounced Netanyahu, saying his speech was hypocritical, cynical, and inciting against Muslims and Israeli Arab parliamentarians.
“That is something that is not only irresponsible. It is the action of a politician who is dancing on the blood of the attack. His whole goal is to be more right-wing than (Jewish Home party head Naftali) Bennett and (Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor) Liberman,” Tibi told Israel Radio.
“What matters most [for Netanyahu] is to score a few more points,” Tibi said.
Milhem, who comes from Arara in northern Israel, fled the scene of the Friday afternoon shooting at the Simta Bar in Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, and remained at large Sunday morning. Two people were killed in the attack and several others injured, two of whom remained in serious but stable condition.
Leading politicians on Saturday called for a crackdown on arms trafficking and illegal weapons in the country and in particular in Arab communities, where the problem is acute.
Tibi claimed Arab leaders have for years been asking for illegally held weapons in their communities to be collected by law enforcement officials, and said he had spoken to Netanyahu about this imperative in the past.
“It is he, the prime minister, who has failed, not the Arab community or the MKs,” he said. “The speech yesterday hurt every Arab and Muslim.”
Speaking Saturday night at the site of the shooting, Netanyahu vowed to dramatically increase law enforcement services in the Arab sector.
“We will open new police stations, recruit more police officers, go into all the towns and demand of everyone loyalty to the laws of the state,” he said. “We all know there is wild incitement by radical Islam in the Arab sector. Incitement in mosques, incitement in the education system, incitement in social media.”
“I expect all of the Arab Knesset members, all of them, without exception, to condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally. Murder is murder; it must be condemned and acted against by all sides,” Netanyahu demanded.
MK Tzipi Livni from the Zionist Union party called on Netanyahu to take responsibility as the leader of all Israelis.
“Act like a prime minister,” she said during an interview with the Hebrew-language Ynet website. “Don’t discriminate, don’t divide and don’t sow hatred and fear; and that is what the prime minister managed to do at the scene of the event.”
Livni also said that Israeli Arab leaders have long appealed to Netanyahu for help in removing illegal weapons from their communities and warned against the consequences of ignoring the problem.
Fellow Zionist Union member Shelly Yachimovich said Netanyahu had failed in all his duties in responding to recent terror attacks, while “excelling” at incitement.
“Yesterday we saw the prime minister rush to a pointless photo op at the scene of the painful and bloody attack, set up a odd lectern, and then incite terribly against all the Israeli Arab citizens,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “It was a complete failure by the man in the war on terror, in dealing with the attacks, a complete failure at condolence, at calming [tensions], at unity and hope, while excelling at incitement.”
With an estimated 50 percent of children in north Tel Aviv schools staying home Sunday because of fears that the gunman could strike again, Huldai lambasted Netanyahu for failing to stem the ongoing wave of terrorism.
Watching Netanyahu speak Saturday night, said Huldai, “I felt the frustration of the man, his thesis shattered right before his eyes; he cannot solve the problem of security for the citizens of the State of Israel.” Speaking to Army Radio in a Sunday morning interview, Huldai charged that rather than “looking for answers, he is just lashing out at another community.”
The two victims who were shot dead in the Simta Bar were Alon Bakal, who was a manager at the venue, and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi from Ofakim, one of five long-time friends who were celebrating a birthday together.
Tibi also contrasted Netanyahu’s generalized comments about Israeli Arabs with the prime minister’s defense last week of the Jewish religious Zionist community against the background of extremist right-wing Jews suspected of fire-bombing a home in the Palestinian village of Duma in July, killing three members of the Dawabsha family.
Netanyahu had said the Duma extremists and those filmed celebrating the murder of the Dawabshas in a recently broadcast video from a wedding were fringe radicals, “extreme and marginal, and certainly don’t represent religious Zionism.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.