JERUSALEM — Israeli leaders proposed harsh new measures Sunday to curb “Jewish terrorism,” following a wave of extremist violence that left Israeli and Palestinian children dead in knife and arson attacks.
An Israeli teenager, described by her parents as a sweet and magical child, succumbed to her wounds Sunday after being stabbed by a Jewish extremist at a gay pride parade last week.
Hours earlier, thousands of Israelis held anti-violence rallies across the country protesting attacks by Israeli assailants against gays and Palestinians.
Israelis were reeling from the fast-moving violence of recent days that included Jewish settlers clashing with government forces at a West Bank settlement, the knife attack at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, and a lethal arson attack in a Palestinian village that resulted in a toddler being burned to death.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday that Israeli authorities should be allowed to employ the same heavy-handed measures against Israeli terrorism suspects as the state uses against Palestinian suspects in the occupied West Bank, freeing the military to seek “administrative detention” against suspects, which would enable them to hold detainees for months, and sometimes years, in prison without presenting charges.
After speaking out against attacks by Jewish extremists and saying he felt shame that the violence had come “from my own people,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was deluged with threats on social media, leading his security detail to file a complaint with Israeli police because of fears that the leader’s life was in danger.
Rivlin was called a “traitor” and a “terrorist” on posts written in Hebrew on Facebook and was depicted wearing a kaffiyeh, a Palestinian checkered headdress.
During a period of similar tumult two decades ago, a right-wing Jewish extremist shot and killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 as he departed a Tel Aviv peace rally attended by more than 100,000.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government will have “zero tolerance” for Jewish extremists, vowing that Israel is committed to fight “hate, fanaticism and terrorism from whatever side.”
Netanyahu then went on the offensive, applauding Israeli leaders who condemned Jewish extremists but asking why Palestinian leaders praise acts of terror on their side.
“We deplore and condemn these murderers. We will pursue them to the end,” the prime minister said. “They name public squares after the murderers of children. This distinction cannot be blurred or covered up.”
Palestinian officials countered that it is Netanyahu and his government who have been peddling incitement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who ordered his security forces in the West Bank to combat violent protests against Israel over the weekend, said Netanyahu wants to see violence flare in the West Bank.
“Why does Netanyahu say there is no partner for peace?” Abbas said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Is it because he has no interest in peace? His best weapon is the intifada,” a reference to the surge of suicide bombings by Palestinians in the early 2000s.
The spiral of violence began Wednesday when Israeli soldiers and police clashed with Jewish settlers at the West Bank community of Beit El.
The Israeli authorities were attempting to demolish two illegal structures at the Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah that were built without permits on private Palestinian land.
Two buildings were leveled but only after Netanyahu said 300 housing units would be built in their place.
On Thursday, Israel’s gay community came under attack as a Jewish extremist stabbed six people at the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
On Friday, arsonists set fire to two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, burning a toddler alive and injuring three others. The investigation is under a gag order but it appeared that no arrests had been made.
The assailants signed their work with a spray-painted message that read “Revenge!” in Hebrew, next to a scrawled image of a Star of David. Authorities say the attack was most likely carried out by Jewish extremists in reaction to events in Beit El.
The stabbing at the gay pride parade was carried out by a man who appeared to be an ultra-
Orthodox Jew, Yishai Schlissel, recently freed after 10 years in prison for committing a similar assault.
One of those injured, Shira Banki, 16, died of her wounds Sunday.
“Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old — full of life and love — who came to express her support for her friends’ rights to live as they choose. For no good reason and because of evil, stupidity and negligence, the life of our beautiful flower was cut short,” her family said in a statement, according to the Israeli news Web site Walla.
The teenager’s death came just a few hours after rallies staged to protest the recent surge in violence committed by Israelis on their own citizens and on Palestinians.
Rivlin, the Israeli president, told crowds in Jerusalem on Saturday night: “The flames are spreading in our land, flames of violence, flames of hatred, flames of false, distorted and twisted beliefs. Flames which permit the shedding of blood, in the name of the Torah, in the name of the law, in the name of morality, in the name of a love for the land of Israel.”
Rivlin said the attacks should be a “wake-up call” for all Israelis.
“An atmosphere has been created here that has allowed leniency toward what is naively called ‘weeds,’ ” the president said, referring to continuing attacks by Jewish extremists against the Palestinian population, both inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank, that have largely gone unchecked by authorities.
In Tel Aviv on Saturday night, Nasser Dawabsha, the uncle of the toddler Ali Dawabsha, who died in the firebombing in Duma, addressed a Jewish Israeli crowd, speaking in Arabic with a Hebrew translator, and asked, “When will this stop?”
“I want to ask Netanyahu, and I want an answer, why was Ali murdered? Eighteen months old. He’s innocent. What did he do to the army and the settlers? Ali is a martyr. We ask and hope that this will be the end of the suffering of our people,” he said.
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres also spoke at the Tel Aviv rally, saying that he was “ashamed” of what had happened and could not believe “we have reached such dark depths.”
In response to Friday’s attack in Duma, Palestinians launched violent protests, clashing with Israeli settlers and soldiers throughout the West Bank on Friday and Saturday.
One Palestinian youth, 17-year-old Laith al-Khalidi, from the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah, was shot by Israeli forces, who said the teen threatened them with a gasoline bomb.
The attack in Duma was condemned by most in Israel, although some right-wing politicians were prevented from speaking at the anti-violence rallies Saturday. Others, including infrastructure and energy minister Yuval Steinitz, a close Netanyahu ally, were booed by the crowds.