The barbaric murders of four Israeli worshippers by two Palestinian terrorists shocked even hardened Israeli responders in its brutality. “Like pictures we’ve seen of the Holocaust — seeing Jews wrapped in prayer shawls, phylacteries on their arms and heads, lying in an enormous pool of blood on the floor of a synagogue,” the head of the ZAKA emergency service told a reporter. Jerusalem was on edge before the murders; tensions rose to a boiling point after.
Confronting the violence and preventing even more spasms will take leadership on both sides, but especially among the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned “the killing of civilians on both sides, and condemns today the killing of worshippers in a house of worship in West Jerusalem.” Unfortunately, he coupled that statement by calling for an end “to invasions of Al-Aqsa Mosque, to the provocations of settlers, and to the incitement of certain Israeli ministers.” That was clearly meant to appease Palestinians and political rivals who continue to see violence as a justified response to political conflict.
Whether the synagogue attack emerges as the climax of a tense period or the start of a long, deadly winter will be up to Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership. They need to take their cue from other world leaders who condemned the attack without excuses or justifications. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry got it right when he called the attack “a pure result of incitement,” and urged Palestinian leaders “to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”
Peace will come to Jerusalem, and to the entire Middle East, when Arab leaders agree that murder is a crime, words have consequences, and no political solution was ever achieved in cowardice.