Israeli occupation to blame for fatal Palestinian attack on cafe - Tel Aviv mayor

An Israeli policeman searches a restaurant following a shooting attack in the center of Tel Aviv June 8, 2016 © Baz Ratner
The mayor of Tel Aviv has blamed Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories for an attack on a cafe that left four Israelis dead. The country's deputy defense minister labeled the remarks “bizarre” and “delusional.”

"We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights,” Mayor Ron Huldai told Israeli Army Radio, referring to the Wednesday attack by two Palestinian gunmen.

“You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright,” he added.

The mayor went on to state that “no one has the courage” to find peace with the Palestinians, and called for attempts to strike an agreement.

"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,” Huldai said.

However, not all Israeli politicians agree with Huldai's statements. In fact, his remarks were labeled “bizarre” and “delusional” by Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan.

"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,'” he continued.

The two Palestinian perpetrators in the attack opened fire at the cafe in Sarona Market on Wednesday night, with video footage showing the moment of the siege. Both men are in custody, and one has undergone surgery after being shot by police.

In response to the attack, Israel has frozen entry permits for 83,000 Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan. Authorities have also said they will send hundreds more troops to the West Bank. 

The imposed restrictions on travel permits have been somewhat criticized by Washington, with the US State Department saying that consequences for innocent Palestinians should also be considered by Israel. Speaking at a news briefing on Thursday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the government's decision to protect its civilians was understandable, but added: "...[W]e would hope that any measures it takes are designed to also take into consideration the impact on Palestinian citizens that are trying to go about their daily lives."

Huldai's Thursday statements refer to Israel's disputed settlements built on lands that have been occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War. There are currently over 230 settlements in total, housing more than half a million Israelis in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.