Tuesday morning, two Palestinian men brutally killed five Jewish worshippers with a meat cleaver, knives, and a pistol in a terror attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood in west Jerusalem. Seven others were wounded in the attack, four seriously. The two assailants were shot dead by Israeli police in a firefight at the scene.
Hadash and Arabs MKs from other parties issued a joint statement condemning the attack, saying there is no justification for targeting civilians and religious worshippers. Hadash chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh, United Arab List-Ta’al leader MK Ibrahim Sarsur, and Balad leader MK Jamal Zahalka said that the continued occupation, the war in and continuing siege of Gaza, the ongoing violence in Jerusalem, and the lack of any political horizon all contribute to such actions; they also warned the Israeli government not to take any steps which will escalate the situation. The MKs said that the only way to break the cycle of violence is to begin serious negotiations that will bring about the end of the occupation and a just and lasting peace. The Israeli NGO B’Tselem also expressed its “shock and abhorrence of the attack, in which Palestinians killed Jewish worshippers at the Bnei Torah Synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. We extend our condolences to the families of the people killed and convey our wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded. B’Tselem strongly condemns any and all intentional assaults against Israeli or Palestinian civilians and reiterates its call to politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.”
On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acting through coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, invited all Zionist parties – excluding Hadash and the Arab parties – to join the coalition. Several faction leaders rejected the offer while others said they would respond on Wednesday. In a televised address earlier on Tuesday, following the attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem, the prime minister stressed “the need for national unity.” Opposition leader and Labor chairman MK Isaac Herzog refused the offer, saying that while “unity is important, especially at this time, the Labor party will not be part of a government whose policy gives no security or hope to Israeli citizens.” Meretz also rejected the offer, Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On saying that unity cannot be a reason to “lend a hand to a government which only adds fuel to the fire, blocking every way to put an end to the hostility and violence.” Gal-On also slammed Netanyahu’s effort at forming a wider coalition, and called the offer an exploitation of the Jerusalem attack for “cynical, political wheeling and dealing.” Gal-On continued: “If the prime minister is heading towards a diplomatic process which requires true compromise, Meretz will give him a safety net.”
On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly told top Likud officials to get ready for possible early elections. Indicating that he sees early elections only as a last resort, Netanyahu told the top Likud officials: “Prepare for early elections, in the hope that we won’t get there.”