Tel Aviv’s mayor on Thursday blamed Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories for a deadly attack carried out by two Palestinian gunmen that left four Israelis dead in the Mediterranean city.
Labour Mayor Ron Huldai, 71, told Israeli army radio that the occupation was to blame for Wednesday evening’s attack when two armed Palestinian men from near Hebron in the southern West Bank walked into a popular cafe and opened fire on revellers.
"We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights,” he said. “You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright."
Huldai added "no one has the courage" to find peace with the Palestinians, and he called for attempts to strike an agreement when there is a lull in attacks.
"There has been an occupation for 49 years, which I was part of and I know the reality, and I know leaders need courage to not just talk.
"We have to show our neighbours that we have true intentions to return to a reality of a smaller Jewish state with a clear Jewish majority."
Deputy Defence Minister Eli Ben-Dahan responded to Huldai by calling his comments "bizarre" and "delusional".
"I heard the mayor of Tel Aviv saying the ‘occupation’ is to blame, or that it’s because we don’t have a peace treaty with the Palestinians, and that’s why we have terrorism," Ben-Dahan told an audience at the Institute of National Security Studies.
"I want to remind him that there was terrorism here 100 years ago, and in 1929 Jews were murdered [in a massacre in Hebron] and there was no State of Israel. There wasn’t even an ‘occupation.’"
The cafe in Sarone Market in Tel Aviv remained open on Thursday afternoon, while an extra two battalions comprising hundreds of troops were poured into the West Bank as the attackers’ home town of Yatta was put on lockdown.
Army vehicles marshalled entry points to the village near Hebron, with soldiers stopping and searching all those leaving and entering.
The two attackers were identified as Mohammad Makhamrah, 22, and his cousin Mohammad Ahmad Makhamrah.
The four people killed were all Israelis and were identified as Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, Ilana Nave, 39, Michael Feige, 58, and Mila Mishayev, 32.
The two Palestinian attackers are both in custody, and one of them has undergone surgery after being shot by police.