What could be more innocent than a young child on a bicycle? Surely any child should be safe to cycle down the road in his home town. Any parent in the world would demand that basic security for their child.
So put yourselves in the shoes of the parents of the 13-year-old Israeli boy who on Monday was riding his bike when he was suddenly set upon by two Palestinian boys – one 17, the other also 13. They stabbed him, leaving him critically wounded.
The current horror for my country is that attacks such as this are a regular occurrence. Before they stabbed the boy, his assailants had made an equally random attack on an Israeli man walking down the street – one of several similar incidents on Monday. Every day since, more have followed: Palestinians suddenly turning on Israeli civilians who were simply minding their own business, using whatever weapon they could to kill or injure.
I’ve spent the last week in Jerusalem, where, as the minister of public security, I have witnessed first-hand what an explosive device, a knife or even a screwdriver can do in the hands of a Palestinian intent on murdering civilians. More than 100 Israelis have been injured in the past two weeks; some have died from their wounds, murdered by terrorists as they were walking down a street or riding a bus.
Some speak of “lone wolf” attacks when describing this wave of terror. But these attacks are being fuelled by violent incitement on social media, on official Palestinian radio and in sermons delivered in Gaza’s mosques. When Hamas posts an “instructional clip” on YouTube teaching viewers how to murder Israeli civilians, when Palestinian radio plays songs of praise to the “martyrs”, and when preachers in Gaza stand at the pulpit with a raised knife to demonstrate how to stab an Israeli, then we shouldn’t be surprised that young people decide to take a knife and commit murder.
Just as Isis murders innocent people because of its extremist jihadi ideology, so is the case with Palestinian terrorism, which is based on the same murderous ideology.
Amid all this incitement, the most inflammatory charge is the claim that Israel has some kind of plan to change the arrangements governing access to the area within the Old City of Jerusalem, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif. This is a lie – and an irresponsible lie at that. I can state in no uncertain terms and on behalf of the government of Israel that my country is not seeking to change the status quo regarding the Temple Mount. We are the first in the long history of those who have governed Jerusalem to ensure that freedom of worship for all religions – Muslims, Jews and Christians – is continually and scrupulously maintained in the city. And that will continue.
But wild conspiracy theories concerning the site are disseminated by radical Islamist groups who would like to see the region in flames, for whom truth is irrelevant and who are guided only by their extremist ideology. This big lie, also spread by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, is the engine in this murderous campaign against Israelis. If Palestinian leaders truly wanted calm, they would tell their people the truth: that there is and will be no change to the status of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Abbas over recent weeks to return to the negotiating table, with no preconditions. Abbas has responded by “saluting every drop of blood shed for Jerusalem”.
This latest round of violence will continue to inflict suffering on both Israelis and Palestinians, further diminishing the confidence that is a prerequisite for talks.
Meaningful negotiations are necessary; a change of course is necessary; but for Israel and for Israelis, this is not a theoretical game or an analytical problem. It’s a situation that affects our daily lives in our country. A government’s – any government’s – prime responsibility is to provide safety: all rights that a democracy grants are dependent on that most basic right. The Israeli government will take the steps necessary to ensure that all of its citizens, Jewish and Arab, can enjoy this basic right.
Tragically, the Palestinian leadership has nurtured a culture of hatred, for decades teaching their children to become murderers. Incitement and murder can lead to tragic suffering on both sides, but Israel is here to stay. The sooner the Palestinians realise this and return to the negotiating table, the sooner we can begin to build a different future – for the sake of all our children.
Gilad Erdan is Israel’s minister of public security.