By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2011
Earlier this week, an incident occurred that should have provoked outrage across the civilized world. In an act of wanton slaughter, Palestinian policemen opened fire at a convoy of Jewish worshipers near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus on Sunday. The men had just recited morning prayers at the Jewish holy site in honor of Pessah, and were heading home to prepare for the end of the festival. But they never made it.
At a checkpoint near the tomb, our ostensible peace partners killed Ben-Yosef Livnat, 25, and wounded four other Israelis, one of them critically. Livnat, a nephew of Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, left a wife and four young children. Even as the Israeli vehicles sought to escape, the Palestinian policemen reportedly continued to fire on them.
Although the IDF initially refrained from labeling the episode an “attack,” it’s clear that that is precisely what it was. And by Sunday evening, both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were calling the shooting an act of “murder.”
Palestinian officials were quick to point out that the Israeli worshipers had failed to coordinate their visit in advance – as though that somehow justified shooting at them. But as Barak rightly noted: “No problem of coordination can justify an incident like this and the shooting of innocent people.”
Even though the identity of the perpetrators is known, none have been detained as of this writing. And given the Palestinian Authority’s track record in punishing those who attack Israelis, there is no reason to suspect that the policemen in question will be made to pay for their crime.
Needless to say, barely a peep was heard from the international community over this brazen assault on the fundamental right of Jews to worship freely. Just imagine what the reaction would have been had Palestinian worshipers leaving a mosque been attacked by Israeli policemen.. We all know how that would have gone down. But the hypocrisy on display should hardly come as a surprise. After all, the Palestinians have been targeting Joseph’s Tomb for years with impunity.
Who can forget October 7, 2000, when Palestinian policemen and Fatah terrorists launched a coordinated assault on the Israeli soldiers guarding the site? After then-prime minister Barak ordered the army to withdraw, a Palestinian mob went on a rampage. Brandishing sledge-hammers and other tools of tolerance, they demolished the tomb – one of the most sacred sites of the Jewish people. In subsequent years, after the structure was repaired, Palestinian vandals repeatedly ransacked and desecrated it.
The Palestinian conduct vis-à-vis the tomb is a clear violation of signed commitments. The Oslo II Accords, signed on September 28, 1995, spelled out specific arrangements concerning Joseph’s Tomb in Article V(2b) of Annex I, which were designed “to ensure free, unimpeded and secure access” to the site.
So much for relying on the Palestinians to keep their word.
The murder of Ben-Yosef Livnat cannot be allowed to pass without a forceful Israeli response. It is simply intolerable that an Israeli can be gunned down in cold blood by a Palestinian policeman.To begin with, Israel should arrest the gunmen who carried out this attack and bring them to trial before an Israeli court. There cannot and must not be immunity for those who murder Israeli citizens.
Moreover, it is time to correct the error made nearly 11 years ago, when Israel forsook this holy place. After the IDF withdrew, the Israeli public was assured that the step was not permanent, but merely a tactical move dictated by the situation on the ground. Just hours after the retreat, the website of Yediot Aharonot reported: “Israel pulls out of Joseph’s Tomb – ‘Temporarily.’” But here we are, more than a decade later, and the tomb still remains “temporarily” abandoned by the Jewish state, in what has become a mark of shame for our nation.
Israel should annex the site, forever restoring it to our exclusive control. And measures should be taken to ensure that Jews can visit safely whenever they wish. As of now, Israelis are allowed to visit once or twice a month, under cover of darkness, like thieves in the night. No nation with even a modicum of dignity would allow such a situation to persist at the tomb of one of its founding fathers.
So let’s put an end to this disgrace. Doing so will send a strong message to our foes, underlining once and for all that the Jewish people will neither cower nor flee. It is time to raise the Israeli flag over Joseph’s Tomb and reclaim this site, and with it, our self-respect as well.