Can the Henkins Rest in Peace?
On Thursday night, Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists who drove by their car and riddled them with bullets. The incident would have caught the attention of the Israeli public in any case. But the fact that the couple was gunned down in front of their four children — aged 9 and under, with the youngest being a 6-month-old baby — made the attack that much more heart-wrenching.
Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s voice cracked slightly while issuing an official statement on the tragedy, in which he expressed deep sorrow for the orphans. This was mere hours after he addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York and said he was “prepared to immediately, immediately, resume direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions whatsoever.”
Turning to the Palestinian Authority leader, whose own speech, delivered the day before, was a tirade of threats to renege on all agreements signed with Israel, Netanyahu said, “President [Mahmoud] Abbas, I know it’s not easy. I know it’s hard. But we owe it to our peoples to try, to continue to try, because together, if we actually negotiate and stop negotiating about the negotiation, if we actually sit down and try to resolve this conflict between us, recognize each other, not use a Palestinian state as a stepping stone for another Islamist dictatorship in the Middle East, but something that will live at peace next to the Jewish state, if we actually do that, we can do remarkable things for our peoples.”
Netanyahu went on to appeal to the U.N. to cease “encouraging Palestinian rejectionism,” and to Abbas to “stop libeling Israel, stop inciting hatred and violence … [and] stop spreading lies about Israel’s alleged intentions on the Temple Mount, [where] … militant Islamists … are smuggling explosives into the Al-Aqsa mosque and … trying to prevent Jews and Christians from visiting the holy sites.”
He could have saved his breath, as he did when making a 44-second pregnant pause at the podium — a gimmick that has earned the address the title of “neum hashtika,” or the “speech of silence.” As he well knows, nobody is listening, least of all Abbas, whose only concern of late is that the nuclear deal with Iran, the slaughter in Syria and the refugee crisis in Europe have been upstaging him abroad, the way Hamas is doing at home.
But it is not only Hamas in Gaza that welcomed the double murder of an Israeli mother and father. Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been celebrating the event with glee.
This is not due to the kind of incitement to which Netanyahu referred in his U.N. address, however. Rather, it is the culmination of a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority since its establishment to educate its populace to Jew-hatred and armed struggle against Israelis.
The latest manifestation of the latter — requiring no guns, bombs, rockets or training — is rock-throwing. Indeed, over the last few weeks, there has been a sharp rise in the phenomenon, with Palestinian kids of all ages getting in on the act of hurling anything from pebbles to concrete slabs at passing Israeli cars. This is what killed 64-year-old Alexander Levlovich on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. It is what lightly wounded, but critically terrorized, journalist Erica Chernofsky and her baby on Thursday, several hours before the Henkins met their death.
Chernofsky’s car was pummeled by large rocks and concrete blocks thrown by Arab schoolchildren. In fact, when she saw the kids pouring out into the street, she told her husband to slow down, so as not to accidentally hit any of them. This goodwill gesture nearly cost her family their lives, because it was the slow speed of the vehicle that provided the young Palestinians the opportunity to smash the car’s windows.
It is precisely due to the young age of these budding terrorists that Israeli security services are in as much of a bind as they are under scrutiny. It is one thing for a soldier to open fire on an adult wielding a weapon defined as such; it is quite another to shoot kids throwing “stones.”
This is precisely why Abbas has not condemned the most recent murders. He is behind them in word and deed. Such violence also gives the Palestinian Authority president a “twofer”: Dead Jews on the one hand, and potential Palestinian casualties — that can and will be attributed to IDF brutality — on the other. It is a win-win situation for the otherwise weak and unpopular leader.
Fruits of this policy are born every minute. On Friday morning, for example, as the country prepared for the funeral of the Henkins, reports in the Israeli media were already emerging about angry “settlers on the warpath” in Samaria, committing “acts of vengeance.” (These included the burning of an empty car and the spray-painting of epithets on a wall.)
It is not revenge, however, on the minds of Israelis today; it is fear that Netanyahu’s preoccupation with Iran, however necessary, is leaving the field wide open for more palpable threats against citizens of the Jewish state to materialize and thrive. What he has been trying to explain to the world is worth repeating in this context: Iran is not a separate problem; it is the head of the snake.
Such truths, of course, are of little comfort to the parents, children and friends of Naama and Eitam Henkin today. Nor should it constitute an excuse for the ongoing onslaught that led to their deaths.
May they rest in peace, and let Netanyahu prepare for war.
Ruthie Blum is a Tel Aviv-based author and journalist. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.