With each passing day, it becomes a clear that Israel is experiencing a wave of terror unseen since the dark days of the second intifada over a decade ago. There have been stabbing incidents on the streets of Jerusalem and even now in other parts of the country. Snipers, gasoline bombs, and gangs armed with lethal rocks are assaulting Jews driving on the roads in the West Bank. But as the toll of casualties rises, the reaction from the U.S. government and the international media is cool, detached indifference. The best the State Department can do in reaction to the attacks is to issue a lukewarm denial that it will abandon Israel at the United Nations. Meanwhile, the New York Times publishes a feature on the possibility of a third intifada treating the number of casualties on both sides as equal even though one total is of the victims of terror and the other includes slain terrorists.
But as the Palestinians seem to be succumbing to a form of mass madness in which much of the population seems to be joining in a mass game of “kill the Jew,” onlookers would do well to ponder to what extent their lack of a response is responsible for the escalation of the violence.
Let’s concede that the prime responsibility for bloodshed by both Jews and Arabs in the past weeks belongs to the Palestinian leadership. Over the past year, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has been guilty of cynically attempting to feed Muslim paranoia about the fate of the mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The Israeli government has sought to preserve the current status quo on the sacred plateau and forbade Jewish prayer while also continuing to allow the Muslim Wakf to run the area even if that meant turning a blind eye to its massive vandalism with respect to ancient artifacts, especially those that illustrate the Jewish ties to the site. It is true that some Jews wish for Jewish prayer to be allowed in what is, after all, the holiest spot in Judaism, but they are not getting their way and their only activity is to ask more Jews to visit the Temple Mount, even as they are required to avoid prayer and subjected to abuse from Muslims.
But Abbas has seized on the Temple Mount issue in much the same way as some of his predecessors over the last century have done and the result has been similar: an upsurge in anti-Jewish violence. If Palestinians are now seeking out Jews to stab, stone, shoot, or incinerate as part of what is being called an “Al-Aqsa intifada,” it is largely because their leaders and PA-controlled media have told them that their mosques are in danger. Indeed, Abbas repeated this canard from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly last week.
Just as bad, Palestinians are also buying into the notion that peaceful resistance to Israel has failed and that violence might prod the Jewish state into giving them what they want. This notion is based in another lie since the PA leadership has repeatedly refused Israeli offers of peace and statehood.
It may be true that Abbas hopes to control the violence rather than let the territories sink into the chaos that marked the second intifada as the Palestinian economy tanked. But once unleashed, this wave of religious hatred is not so easily reined in, either by Israeli security forces or those who have fomented the violence.
But in assessing the blame for the current state of affairs, President Obama’s role should not be ignored.
Obama has at times, especially when seeking re-election or trying to blunt American Jewish opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, attempted to portray himself as a friend of Israel. But even when doing so he has tried to pose as a defender of a mythical lost Israel of the past that wanted peace and a critic of the actual Israel of the present that he implies is not willing to make sacrifices to end the conflict. Like Abbas’s lies, these assertions are based on lies. But though Americans have viewed the debate about Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides as essentially a political question, the impact of his statements has not been limited to votes in Congress.
Obama has demonstrated over the past seven years that no matter what the Palestinians do to sink peace hopes or provoke a response from the Israelis, he will blame Netanyahu. If Abbas thinks he will gain some advantage from refusing to negotiate with Israel and by promoting violence, it is because Obama has signaled that he approves of more pressure being put on the Netanyahu government. When, as it did this past spring, the State Department announces that it is “reassessing” its stance in defense of Israel at the UN, can it really surprise anyone when the Palestinians seek to test how far they can go in pushing the envelope on violence? Moreover, although the supposedly “hard-line” Netanyahu government is being blasted by both the left and right inside Israel for what is seen as a passive approach to the crisis, Abbas is also counting on a fiercely critical international response to any measures that Israel uses to quell the violence.
Abbas and his Hamas rivals wish each other dead and the only thing separating the PA leader from eternity is Israel’s determination that keeping him in power in the West Bank is better than the alternative. But both sides share the goal of isolating Israel. The point is, the more the U.S. equivocates about this wave of Palestinian terror, the less reason Palestinian terror groups will have to rein in their members or the population that they have whipped into a state of mass insanity rooted in religious hatred. More U.S. statements that see the deaths of terror victims and those of the terrorists as morally equivalent will only encourage more such fatalities.
Is it too late to rein in the Palestinians? That isn’t clear. But so long as Obama seems more interested in settling scores with Netanyahu and leaving a legacy that will create some permanent “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem, you can bet the Palestinian leadership will be thinking that they keep pushing. In the meantime, Jewish blood will flow as will that of the Palestinians who are being sent forth to sacrifice themselves on the altar of their national obsession with eliminating Israel and the Jewish presence in their ancient homeland. Seen from that perspective, Obama’s legacy is a terrible indictment of American passivity in the face of hate.