Will Western Leaders Learn from the Synagogue Attack?

by Benjamin Weinthal

Jerusalem — The latest Palestinian terrorist attack in Jerusalem has profound implications, both for Israel’s security and for the broader Middle East.

Two Palestinians, armed with axes, knives, and pistols, stormed an ultra-Orthodox synagogue during morning prayers on Tuesday. They murdered four rabbis and an Israeli Druze police officer. Three of the rabbis were American Israelis and the fourth was British Israeli. The bloodbath recalls the barbarism of the Islamic State beheadings of Americans, Britons, Syrians, Iraqis, and Lebanese.

To stop Palestinian terrorism, there needs to be a paradigm shift among Western leaders. Secretary of State John Kerry famously (or infamously) termed the Israel–Palestinian dispute the “mother of all conflicts.” The ubiquitous violence in the heart of the Islamic world — in Syria, Iraq, and Iran — has proved Kerry wrong.

Kerry had to strong-arm Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas into publicly disavowing Tuesday’s terrorist attack in West Jerusalem. Abbas condemned “the killing of worshipers in a synagogue and all acts of violence regardless of their source.”

After weeks of his whipping up lethal anti-Semitism, however, Abbas’s rhetoric rings hollow. Sadly, the U.S. and the EU failed to exert pressure on him to deescalate his incitement prior to the attack.

There are still loud voices in the U.S. and the EU that believe resolution of the Israel–Palestinian dispute is the sine qua non for stability and peace in the Middle East. Take the recent examples of Sweden’s Socialist-Green government recognizing an independent Palestinian state outside of the negotiation process between Israel and the PA, as well as the Socialist-dominated Spanish legislature and the British parliament (voting on a motion brought by a Labor MP) calling for their governments to recognize such a state.

These types of left-wing unilateral actions create the illusion that the West may force Israel to bend to the Palestinians’ will, thereby encouraging the Palestinians not to negotiate in good faith and leading to increased violence and instability.

Israel and the PA, which is based in the West Bank, will reach agreement when the time is ripe. The gulf between them is too great at the moment, largely because the PA formed a unity government last spring with the terrorist entity Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas seeks to obliterate Israel. Hamas and its supporters in Gaza and the West Bank celebrated Tuesday over the killings of Jews.

The EU and U.S.’s obsession with Israel building apartments in East Jerusalem — and in West Bank territory whose future will be decided in a PA–Israel final agreement — is yesterday’s idea.

— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benajmin on Twitter @BenWeinthal

The Corner

The one and only.