US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for not condemning a deadly West Bank attack that killed two Israelis, and said that the Palestinian celebration of terror is “the problem.”
Friedman tweeted the remarks hours after Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, 47 and a father of 12, died of injuries he sustained the day before when a terrorist shot him with a weapon stolen from an IDF soldier. The attacker, identified by security forces as Omar Abu Laila, 19, earlier took the weapon from IDF Sgt. Gal Keidan, also 19, after stabbing him to death. Keidan was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.
Another IDF soldier, Alexander Dvorsky, 19, was also injured in the shooting spree and remained in critical condition on Monday.
“Heartbroken by the murder of Sergeant Gal Keidan and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger,” Friedman wrote. “Praying for Alexander Dvorsky.”
He then called out Abbas for having condemned the Friday shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people, but remaining silent about the West Bank attack, which was praised by the Hamas terror group.
“Hamas, as usual, is celebrating and Abu Mazen, who properly joined with all civilized people in condemning the terrorist attack in Christchurch, is now deafening in his silence,” Friedman continued, using the Arabic nickname for Abbas.
“Israelis attacking Palestinians are condemned, prosecuted and incarcerated by the Israeli government,” Friedman added. “Palestinians attacking Israelis are celebrated, compensated and venerated by the PA leadership and/or Hamas. And there lies the problem.”
Ettinger was laid to rest Monday in the central city of Petah Tikva. Keidan was buried in the military cemetery of his hometown of Beersheba.
Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who backs Israel’s settlement movement in the West Bank, has in the past assailed the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying stipends to the families of Palestinian assailants caught or killed committing terrorism against Israelis. Critics charge the payments encourage Palestinians to carry out attacks on Israelis.
Both the United States and Israel have passed legislation over the past year or so targeting the PA’s practice of paying the families of security prisoners, including terrorists. The Trump administration has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians amid the PA’s boycott of the White House for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel has called on Palestinians for years to halt the stipends, which benefit roughly 35,000 families of Palestinians killed, wounded, or jailed in the conflict with Israel, many of them accused of involvement in terror.
After an Israeli teenager was raped and murdered in February by a West Bank Palestinian man who claimed he attacked her for nationalist reasons, Israel said it would deduct the amount the PA pays out in stipends to terrorists and their families from tax money it collects and transfers to the West Bank government on behalf of the Palestinians.
The security cabinet decided to approve gradually withholding NIS 502,697,000 million ($138 million) of tax revenues from the PA over the next year. The decision further strained tensions with the PA.
Palestinian officials have said the Palestinians will not accept any of the taxes Israel gathers for the PA, if it does not transfer the full amount to Ramallah. The Jewish state has recently collected around $193 million in taxes for the PA on a monthly basis.
In the Sunday attack, Abu Laila first stabbed Keidan, who was on guard duty at the Ariel Junction in the northern West Bank, and stole his weapon. He then used the gun to fire on passing cars, fatally injuring Ettinger. After one driver abandoned his vehicle when shot at by Abu Laila, the suspect stole the car and drove to the nearby Gitai Junction where he opened fire again, seriously injuring Dvorsky.
The manhunt after Abu Laila was still ongoing Monday. Israeli security forces detained his father and brother in the nearby town of Az-Zawiya, according to the Ma’an Palestinian news site. Authorities believe Abu Laila fled into the village of Bruqin on foot after the attacks.