(JNS.org) The head of the alliance of Israel’s Arab political parties, Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh, issued a lukewarm condemnation of Friday’s terror attack in Jerusalem, in which Arab terrorists killed two Israeli Druze police officers near the Temple Mount.
“The struggle of Arab citizens is a political struggle and is by no means an armed struggle,” Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List, told Radio A-Shams, an Israeli Arabic-language station. “We wholly oppose any use of firearms by our youths.”
Friday’s attack was carried out by three members of Israel’s Arab minority, which comprise nearly a fifth of the country’s population. Israeli Arabs have the same civil rights and freedom of movement as all citizens of Israel.
Reports indicate that the three terrorists—Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19, and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19—all hailed from the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, and were reportedly members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, an Islamist group that has been banned by the Israeli government due to its incitement of violence over the Temple Mount.
Israeli leaders called on the Arab community to condemn the attack.
“It is time for the Arab leadership in Israel, and even outside it, to express a clear position against this criminal attack,” President Reuven Rivlin said.
MK Avi Dichter (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, noted that previous Arab leaders in Israel, such as former MKs Azmi Bishara and Basel Ghattas, have aligned themselves with terror groups.
“From the moment it became apparent that the murderers who killed two Border Police officers and injured others were Arab Israelis from Umm Al-Fahm, I expected the leaders of the Arab Israelis…to swiftly release a statement of condemnation of the heinous attack,” said Dichter.
Following the attack, Israeli officials cancelled Friday’s Muslim prayers at the Temple Mount and issued a temporary ban on public gathering at the holy site’s compound, angering many Palestinian officials. The holy site will remain closed until Sunday, at which point security officials will assess the situation.
Odeh accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of igniting a religious conflict.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu, he is the one who wants to turn the conflict from a political conflict to a religious one, and this is why he sponsors provocative entries by settlers to the compound of the [Al-Aqsa] mosque,” Odeh said. “The government must respect the holiness of the Aqsa Mosque and enable the continuation of prayers on the site.”
Netanyahu, however, has asserted that the closure was implemented for security reasons and that there will be no change to the status quo at the Temple Mount, where Jewish visitation is limited and Jewish prayer is banned.
Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s coordinator of government activities in the territories, reiterated this point in an Arabic-language video statement issued Friday, aiming to ease Palestinian concerns.
“Now and for a short time, Israeli security forces are taking steps to ensure that there are no more weapons in place. We want to maintain freedom of worship,” Mordechai said.