It is hard to conceive of a more grisly murder. On shabbat, Palestinian terrorists broke into the home of residents of the West Bank town of Itamar and stabbed to death five members of the family, including a 3-month old baby. The initial reaction of Palestinians was grotesque, if not predictable. Ynet news reported, “Gaza residents from the southern city of Rafah hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar where five family members were murdered in their sleep, including three children. Residents handed out candy and sweets, one resident saying the joy ‘is a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank.’ ”

The reaction of the Palestinian Authority was equally predictable. On Saturday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a “condemnation” that in essence blamed Israel for the attack, as the Jerusalem Post reported:

In a statement released by his office, Abbas “stressed his rejection and condemnation of all violence directed against civilians, regardless of who was behind it or the reason for it.”

As if that wishy-washy comment were not bad enough, “Abbas added that ‘violence produces violence and what is needed is to speed up a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.’ Earlier on Saturday, the Palestinian Authority said that there was no evidence of Palestinian involvement in the terror attack in Itamar.”

That was a bit much to ignore, even for the Obama administration. The White House issued a statement that revealed its frustration with the PA: “ ‘There is no possible justification for the killing of parents and children in their home,’ The White House said. ‘We call on the Palestinian Authority to unequivocally condemn this terrorist attack and for the perpetrators of this heinous crime to be held accountable.’ ”

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) was, not surprisingly, more direct:

“The attack on the Fogel family, including three children aged 11 years, 4 years, and 3 months, shows the hate-filled nature of the extremists who continue to launch attacks against Israelis.

“Tragically, attacks against Israeli civilians by Islamist extremists are not rare occurrences, and continue to be spurred on by years of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement by Hamas and Fatah in West Bank and Gaza.

“It is not enough for the Palestinian Authority to merely condemn this act. The PA must finally take immediate and decisive action to verifiably dismantle the extremist infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza, including rooting out and condemning all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people.”

And so today Abbas finally came out with a new and improved statement : “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the Itamar terror attack was a despicable, immoral, and inhuman act.” On Israel radio he declared, “A human being is not capable of something like that. Scenes like these — the murder of infants and children and a woman slaughtered — cause any person endowed with humanity to hurt and to cry.” But he dismissed the suggestion that Palestinian incitement was to blame:

He also rejected Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu’s previous comments that the PA incites violence against Israel in its mosques, and called for the setting up of an Israeli-Palestinian-American committee to examine Netanyahu’s allegations that there is incitement in Palestinian textbooks.

This episode is instructive. First, despite the Obama team’s efforts to gussy up the Palestinian Authority, it exhibits no leadership. Abbas had to be dragged for 48 hours to cough up a remotely appropriate statement. And even then, he rejected any responsibility for the PA’s official efforts to glorify terrorists. However, the episode also reveals that when significant pressure is applied to the PA, its behavior can be modified. If only the Obama administration would spend a fraction of its time denouncing terrorist incitement by the Palestinians as it does pounding Israel on settlements, we might be making progress. But in the meantime, the Itamar massacre only reinforces the conclusion that the PA is unwilling and unable to police its own side. Does President Obama really imagine that Israel would withdraw from the West Bank anytime soon?