For the first time since the beginning of the current wave of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday issued a condemnation of the latest such act.
Abbas was forced to condemn the Har Nof synagogue attack after facing pressure from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had phoned the PA president twice over the past few days to demand that the Palestinians stop anti-Israel incitement. On Tuesday, Kerry issued a call to the PA leadership to condemn the Har Nof attack.
Kerry’s pressure prompted Abbas to issue two condemnations of the incident. The first came in the form of a terse statement published by official PA news agency Wafa, in which the Palestinian leadership condemned the “killing of worshipers in a synagogue and all acts of violence regardless of their source.”
The statement also called for an end to “incursions and provocations by settlers against the Aksa Mosque.”
Later, Abbas’s office issued a second statement, which again condemned the Har Nof attack and “assaults on the Noble Sanctuary [Temple Mount].”
In both statements, the PA leader sought to establish a direct link between the recent spate of terrorist attacks and visits by Jewish groups to the Temple Mount.
Over the past few weeks, he has repeatedly referred to the controversial Jewish visits as an act of provocation. At one point, he even called on Palestinians to prevent “by all means settlers and extremists from desecrating the Aksa Mosque.”
Abbas’s fiery rhetoric reached its peak when he sent a condolence letter to the family of Moataz Hejazi, the Abu Tor man who shot and seriously wounded Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick.
In his letter, Abbas told the family that “your son will go heaven as a martyr defending the rights of our people and their holy places.”
One day before the Har Nof attack, the PA’s official media accused Jewish settlers and extremists of “murdering” Jerusalem bus driver Yussuf al-Ramuni, who, according to police and a forensic autopsy, committed suicide.
The PA’s Foreign Ministry held Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally responsible for Ramuni’s “murder.”
Over the past few months, Abbas and the PA have been telling Palestinians that Israel is planning to destroy the mosque on the Temple Mount. They have also declared the Palestinians who carried out the recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion to be “martyrs.”
Now many Palestinians who were radicalized by Abbas are denouncing him for his condemnation of the Har Nof attack. Some say they are willing to forgive Abbas for the move because of the immense pressure he has been facing from the Americans.
But as Abbas spoke out against the Har Nof attack, several senior PA and Fatah officials went on Arab TV stations to declare that it was a “natural response to Israeli crimes.” Besides Abbas, no senior Palestinian official in Ramallah was prepared to issue a condemnation.
Through his rhetoric, Abbas has radicalized his people to a point where he is now being roundly condemned himself for speaking out against a terrorist attack on a synagogue.