Opposition leader Isaac Herzog strongly condemned the murder of an Arab youth in Jerusalem Wednesday, saying that if it was a nationalist hate crime, it was “an assassination” and “an act of terror.”
Herzog spoke to the foreign media at the Jerusalem Press Club while the identity of the perpetrator was still unknown. He expressed support for the police to determine who was responsible for the boy’s death and hope that the violence in Jerusalem would stop.
“We are extremely disturbed by the fighting in Jerusalem,” he said.
“Violence of any kind on either side is unacceptable. Jews and Arabs will live here forever and will have to find a way to live side by side with each other.”
Herzog called for caution and restraint. He reiterated that message when he visited a downtown Jerusalem square where Arabs have been harassed.
“The situation on the ground is very explosive,” he said. “There are brainwashed youngsters on summer vacation who add to the tension.
But Israel will not let extremists on either side dictate the agenda. We won’t let dark days continue here.”
When a member of the foreign press questioned Hamas’s role in the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens, Herzog said it was clear to him that the murders were perpetrated by Hamas killers.
“Hamas are the bad guys,” he said.
“They are launching missiles against our people. We have to defend them. There could be a moment when we have to go to war in Gaza. Right now I don’t think that will happen, but it may deteriorate to that.”
Herzog said he had pressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to respond more favorably to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of the kidnappings.
He said that despite the murders of the boys, he still believes Israel should be proactive toward separation between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The right thing to do is still dividing the land based on the pre- 1967 borders with land swaps,” he said. “It’s the same old plan. There’s still a chance. Part of the failure of the process was the poor relations between Netanyahu and Abbas.
That led to unnecessary tension.”
Herzog said there was a strong possibility that Israel will face elections in 2015 due to tensions inside Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
While he said it was important that haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political leaders recently endorsed his candidacy for prime minister, he expressed hope that in the next election his Labor Party will do so well that he will be able to form a government without them.