By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The current wave of terrorist attacks on Israelis that continues and is now spreading to different parts of the country has put Prime Minister Netanyahu under siege.
He’s fighting the ultra-right wingers in his own party as well as among his coalition partners who accuse him of not being tough enough in dealing with the Palestinians. One of their demands is to build more homes in the settlements ostensibly to demonstrate that the attacks on Jews have the opposite effect of what the perpetrators say they want to achieve. Netanyahu has so far resisted their demands.
They’re probably also upset that he has forbidden all members of the Knesset to visit the Temple Mount, presumably to avoid provoking Palestinian militants. Ironically, those who intend to defy the ban are – the Arab Members of Knesset.
Another right-wing response – this time inspired by Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat who is said to have ambitions to enter national right-wing politics – is to urge all Israelis who have the relevant license to follow his example and carry arms openly. The horrible mass shootings in the United States by men with permits to carry arms don’t seem to make an impact on Israeli militants.
And the prime minister is attacked by the left for being too tough. Thus Meretz, the only credible Socialist party in Israel, will hold a demonstration on Saturday night outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem (while he and his family will presumably be in their weekend home in Caesarea) under a slogan directed against those in power in Israel: “Intifada government – go home!” Announcing the event, the organizers elaborate: “Enough violence! Enough vengeance! Enough incitement! When there’s no hope comes war.”
The text of the weekly advertisement of another peacenik group Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) reads: “What is intifada? The uprising of a people against an alien government in order to gain independence.” And then this: “For example, the uprising of the Jewish population in Palestine against the British Mandate.”
To explain himself, perhaps to defend himself, the prime minister called a press conference at which he’s reported to have re-iterated his usual arguments with one exception: he spoke of Abu Mazen, the president of the Palestinian Authority, in much more conciliatory terms, perhaps in a vain effort to restart peace talks.
Netanyahu answered a question by a journalist – perhaps original, perhaps planted – to the effect that the present situation warrants a unity government, i.e., the inclusion of the Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. This would help Netanyahu greatly because it would weaken the influence of the right wing ministers in the current coalition. However, Herzog is reported to have responded by insisting that the prime minister resign to make room for new elections or at least a different government.
It’s by no means clear whether a change of government would indeed bring the moderate centre Zionist Union (described on many occasions by Netanyahu as the extreme left) to power. The opposite may be the case: the right wingers may end up in an unassailable majority.
Whatever the outcome, the terrorists whether part of an organized movement or acting on their own, are causing some instability here and the worry that comes with it.