“We the Jews are the very provocation, and until we vanish, the terror won’t end”

The presence of Islamists in Bennet’s coalition is a source of much consternation amid a fresh wave of Muslim terror

By Tolik Piflaks | | Topics: Terrorism, Mansour Abbas
A new wave of Muslim terror has right-wing Israelis criticizing Prime Minister Bennett for including Islamists in his coalition.
A new wave of Muslim terror has right-wing Israelis criticizing Prime Minister Bennett for including Islamists in his coalition. Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

The terror attack in Bnei Brak that claimed the lives of five people has brought back images that the average Israeli remembers from around 25 years ago in the days of the Oslo Accords. It is seldom that Israelis encounter terrorism in central Israel, and when it does it literally strikes closer to home in more than one way.

Unsurprisingly, this has created a very lively political conversation. From the right-wing side of the political map criticism is tied to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s fragile coalition, blaming him for not only forming a government relying on left-leaning parties, but going so far as to aligning with the Islamic party Ra’am, with its nationalistic and pro-Muslim ideology and questionable-at-best history when it comes to acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state. Bennett is accused of being ‘soft’ on Islamic terrorism because of his dependency on Ra’am’s vote.

Top political commentator Amit Segal tweeted shortly after Tuesday night’s attack: “Until we recognize the problem, we won’t be able to reach a solution… The failure should not be attributed to the security services, but rather it is the result of burying our heads in the sand. Jew-hatred does not discern between the Green Line (’67 borders), income levels, infrastructure conditions, Jews entering the Temple Mount or commemorations. We the Jews are the provocation that pierces the eye, and until we vanish, all of this won’t stop, as far as they are concerned. Unless we wake up…”

More than a response to the recent terror, this is also a commentary on the very common opinion in Israel, especially in elite left-wing circles, that Arab violence is a reaction to systematic discrimination against Palestinians and the Arab minority in Israel.

Bezazel Smotrich, the leader of Religious Zionism, a far-right opposition party, was quick to link the terrorist shooting to Bennett’s government: “Unfortunately we have a government with terrorist and anti-Zionist elements… You can call it ISIS, Hamas… but we have a war between two people groups: one is wanting to return to its homeland and form a country while seeking peace, and the other people group has been trying to deny us of that right for over a hundred years.”

Smotrich was previously a member of Bennett’s party, Yamina, but now he’s one of the prime minister’s most vocal critics, and his words echo a prevalent sentiment among Israel’s right-wing voters, who are convinced that Bennett betrayed their vote by forming a left-leaning government.

Shirly Pinto, a Knesset member from Bennett’s party, has expressed concern over such statements, saying: “Especially in this time, when the wave of terrorism hits us, we have to be united. The opposition’s exploitations and macabre attempt to create unrest is jeopardizing the continued existence of the country.”

This notion is a common talking point among Israel’s leftist thinkers, accusing those on the Right of war-mongering. Nevertheless, it is a recent development to hear this kind of statement from a member of Bennett’s party, considering the fact that it still sees itself politically aligned to the Right (the name of the party, Yamina, literally translates to ‘rightwards’).

Not surprisingly, this statement has drawn much anger from the Right, especially from those who accuse Pinto and those like her of failing to see the real problem: That her party has formed a government coalition with a faction that’s aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yotam Zimri, a right-leaning television and radio personality, retweeted Pinto’s remarks and sarcastically added that “she realized what puts the country in danger,” alluding to what he perceives as Pinto’s lack of ability to recognize the obvious, real enemy facing Israel.

All discourse on this matter leads back to the Bennett-Abbas alignment. Since the new government was formed less than a year ago, much attention has been given to Mansour Abbas, as this is the first time in Israel’s history that an Arab party joined a coalition government. Abbas is also the Deputy Chairman of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement. That is not a small matter, given the fact that the Norther Branch of the Islamic Movement was outlawed in Israel.

So, Abbas’ thoughts, especially after a terror attack, require scrutiny. He has been consistent in offering condemnation of the terror attacks, and did so this time as well:

“Today a despicable crime of terror happened In Bnei Barak against innocent civilians. I empathize with the grief of the families and wish full recovery to those who are wounded. We all face this wave of murderous terrorism… the cities of Israel are filled with Arab and Jewish civilians, and whoever goes on a killing spree does not distinguish one blood from another.”

Many on the Left commended Abbas, while voices on the Right were quick to suggest that the Ra’am leader is conflating Arab casualties of violence with the much more common Jewish casualties. Condemning both in the same breath suggests a false equivalence, they say.

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