The image from the scene of Tuesday's synagogue attack
in Jerusalem takes us back to the most difficult situations in the history of the Jewish people, to the pogroms, to the riots, to the Holocaust: Jews massacred in their prayer shawls, in the middle of a prayer; holy books drenched in blood; a desecrated synagogue.
There isn't any sophisticated reasoning that can explain such an act, not to mention justifying it. Therefore, we cannot accept the cries of joy in Gaza and in some of the West Bank cities. Those rejoicing in such a massacre lose their moral right to cry about the occupation. The Palestinians have had many joys in 100 years of conflict, and each one of them further deepened their tragedy.
We must remember of course that there has already been such a massacre of worshippers in the middle of their prayer, at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The murderer was Jewish; the worshippers were Muslim. Apart from a few people, the Israeli street responded to that massacre by condemning the act and expressed anxiety and fear. That's not the way the Palestinian street responded on Tuesday.
From one isolated incident to another isolated incident, we've got ourselves an intifada on our hands, which is threatening to be as fatal as the two previous ones. Fatal both for us and for them: There are no winners in this affair – only victims.
The 10 quiet years, which began with Operation Defensive Shield, with Yasser Arafat's death, with the construction of the fence and with the disappearance of the suicide terrorism, are behind us. It's hard to know how long the current wave of terror will last and how strong it will be, but it hurts knowing that we spent these past 10 years in vain.
What is needed right now is a concentrated effort to put out the fire. The effort begins with immediate preventive measures: Boosting forces in Jerusalem and on the Judea and Samaria routes; increasing the trust between the IDF and Shin Bet and the Palestinian Authority's security organizations, taking care of the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which have been neglected for years by the government and municipality.
The effort requires mutual restraint at the top, in the statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and PA officials and in the statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers.
A concentrated effort is needed to put out the fire (Photo: Reuters)
Surveillance of extreme Jewish people and groups must also be expanded. According to past experience, when the government restrains itself, out of choice or due to constraints, the Jewish terrorists jump into the fire. Only a week ago they torched a mosque in a small village east of Ramallah. The price tag for the synagogue massacre could be much higher.
Back to the Palestinians: Netanyahu promised at his press conference
Tuesday to demolish the homes of the families of those who committed the massacre. There is a dispute over the effectiveness of home demolitions: The Shin Bet says it has a deterring effect, while the IDF says it doesn't and could even achieve the opposite goal – sowing the seeds to the next attack. Each side presents data affirming its opinion, and there is no one to decide.
But all that is irrelevant, because the government – from Naftali Bennett to Yair Lapid – feels it has to show the public that it is punishing the other side, otherwise they will say that it is leftist or weak, and the demolition of homes provides good photos.
Despite Netanyahu's seniority as prime minister, the Palestinian wave of violence is a new experience for him. In previous terms, his predecessors took most of the blow, leaving him a period of relative calm. His first serious conflict with a terror organization was in the past summer, in Operation Protective Edge, and it was alarmingly long, alarmingly expensive, and ended in an embarrassing tie and a spillover of the fire to Jerusalem.
Now too, his tool box is empty. The books he published about the war on terror are unhelpful: He is forced to learn on the fly.
The assailants and their collaborators, if they had any, are to blame for the massacre. It's wrong, and unfair, to place the responsibility for this horrible act on the shoulders of anyone on the Israeli side. The following lines, which relate to our side, were written therefore as footnotes, not in defiance.
First of all, we are lucky to have a prime minister from the right-wing camp. With all the pain and anger over the massacre, we have at least been spared mass protests demanding the prime minister's resignation, pictures of him in a keffiyeh, inciting speeches from the balcony overlooking Jerusalem's Zion Square, and a campaign for his removal funded by billionaires from America.
Secondly, Israel's ministers would be wise to leave Abbas alone. Claiming that the two villains from Jabel Mukaber went out to murder because they heard Abbas give an inciting speech is like claiming that the "price tag" criminals went out to desecrate a mosque because they heard Netanyahu give an inciting speech. The Palestinian terrorists disregard Abbas just like the Jewish inflamers disregard Netanyahu.
It’s true that Abbas has delivered a number of false, demagogic speeches about Israel and the history of the Jewish people in recent weeks. It's true that he is working to isolate Israel in the international arena. But on the terror front, there is no cleaner person.
As Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen said Tuesday, and as IDF commanders say, Abbas orders his people to fight terror. It is becoming increasingly difficult – but he does it without hesitation, and so far his people have been obeying his orders.
Netanyahu portrayed Abbas as a terrorist in order to gain international de-legitimization of the PA chairman's diplomatic campaign against the Israeli government. The problem is real, but the move is pathetic: No one in the world buys into it. On Tuesday, Netanyahu realized the he and his ministers are losing their credibility. He moderated his comments.
He reiterated that "the incitement is the root of the conflict." The incitement, indeed, inflames the hatred, but it is an outcome of the conflict, not the reason for its existence. Only a naïve person would believe that ending the incitement would end the conflict: There is a land here which both sides are finding it difficult to share, historic, religious, ethnic and national animosity. This bleeding conflict deserves some respect: Ending it with incitement belittles it.
The third point is that the terror is our problem. It is happening inside our capital and against our citizens. The prime minister's appeal to the world to join our struggle is uncalled for. Jabel Mukaber is not Iran.
The fourth, and perhaps main point, is that the shift from a national conflict to a religious war has been in the air for quite a while. IDF, Shin Bet and police officials have been warning about it repeatedly. Leave God alone, they said, both our god and their god. Don't get religion involved. A thousand firefighters are incapable of putting out a fire with God at its center.
The warnings did not receive the attention they deserved. On one side, they faced the nationalist populism of politicians like Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin, Zeev Elkin, Naftali Bennett, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Tzipi Hotovely, Miri Regev and others, who thought that changing the status quo on the Temple Mount would promote them.
(Most of them, by the way, disappeared from the horizon the moment the terror begun and there was a danger that someone would point an accusing finger at them. The Temple Mount has been deserted. Feiglin's supporters are the only ones left there).
On the other side, the warnings faced the holy innocence of liberal circles, delicate and intelligent people in the State Prosecutor's Office, in politics, in the public discourse, who failed to understand how dangerous it is to try to change the rules of the game on the Mount at this time.
Why shouldn’t Jews pray there, they asked. Why shouldn’t they build synagogues there? What's the difference between the Women of the Wall and the Temple Mount Faithful? Both want to pray. They had a huge powder keg in front of them, and they let Feiglin and his friends play with matches.