It’s been a week jam packed with bad-news headlines here in Israel.
On the security front: A week and a day ago, a Palestinian man with multiple ties to Hamas, was killed by the Israel National Police. Shot as he fled the scene after he’d rammed his car into the light-rail train in Jerusalem; that terrorist act took the lives of two Israelis and wounded seven others.
Over the subsequent days, significant populations of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population rioted, before, during, and after the terrorist’s funeral. Concerned over further escalations, the police closed the Temple Mount to all but Muslim women of any age and men over the age of 40.
Last night a right-wing activist who promotes the rights of Jews to visit the Temple Mount was shot in an assassination attempt (notably in West, not East Jerusalem). The assailant fled on a motorbike. Hours later, when police counter-terrorism units surrounded the house of a suspect in the mixed Israel-Palestinian, Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor, they came under fire. Returning fire, they killed the suspect. They report that the pistol and motorbike used in the attack were found in the suspect’s house. Since then clashes have continued.
Those of us living in Jerusalem have again become all to accustomed to the sound of police and ambulance sirens along with helicopters buzzing overhead and the musing, “Are those booms we hear not-so-far-away gun shots or firecrackers?” (The answer, both.)
In what can only be described as a rational move, the Temple Mount was then closed to everyone. Obfuscating any sense of responsibility, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas claimed that closure was a “dangerous escalation,” calling the act, “a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation.” Talk about inflammatory, completely unhelpful language.
On the Israeli side, unsurprisingly, before the complete closure of the Temple Mount, MK Danny Danon called for a crackdown by the police, Likud’s Moshe Feiglin called for Jews to march on the Temple Mount, and Peace Now posted a flyer to their Facebook wall stating that “[Israeli PM Benyamin “Bibi”] Netanyahu is leading [us] to the next war.”
On the diplomatic front: Jeffery Goldberg’s piece about the implosion of the ties between the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu Government, published in The Atlantic, made headlines. He quoted one US official describing Bibi as, “chickenshit.”
The uproar was heard on every front. The PM’s office came out swinging. And David Horowitz, the typically cool-headed founding editor of this news site opened his Op-Ed on the matter writing, “Very publicly, very nastily, and very worryingly, we are witnessing the collapse of an alliance.”
Domestically: The news isn’t better.
Tamar Pileggi, reporting on a UNICEF document released Monday, wrote, “child poverty in Israel increased from 35.1 percent to 35.6% between 2008 and 2013.” This means Israel now has the fourth highest child poverty rate in the developed world. Even if, as the report indicates, child poverty has gone up in more than half the developed world, that’s still horrible news.
Other terrible, domestic news came to light, as the World Economic Forum published it’s, “Global Gender Gap Report 2014.” Astoundingly, Israel ranked second to last in the, “wage inequality for similar work” category, placing just above Angola. The news, appalling as it is, was, not surprisingly, misrepresented by the Haaretz headline, “Israel second worst globally for gender wage equality.” In fact Israel rated 65 out of 142 nations overall. While there’s still huge room for improvement, Israel’s not in fact in second to last place overall.
Finally: Earlier this week (after the light-rail attack and before last night’s shooting) Israeli President, Reuven “Rubi” Rivlin visited Kfar Kasem to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the massacre of 49 Arab-Israelis by Israeli Border Police Officers.
He struck an appropriate tone in a challenging setting. He acknowledged that what was done there was, “a terrible crime,” and noted those who’d worked together from both the Jewish and Islamic communities towards a sulcha [a resolution between combatants]. He mentioned the light-rail attack in Jerusalem, “This murderous act of terror marks another difficult moment in the painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy.”
And in a masterstroke, he said:
Friends, “I hereby swear, in my name and that of all our descendants, that we will never act against the principle of equal rights, and we will never try and force someone from our land.”
These are not my words, but the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the ‘Beitar’ movement. Words he spoke more than 80 years ago, and which I repeat here today.
Let’s hope that we can take his lead. If we don’t this most tenuous situation could go from bad to much worse.
Even by Israeli standards, it’s been a tough week.