- Israeli politicians on Sunday condemned an attack on Saturday against a Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Jerusalem, as tension mounts between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Parts of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school were set on fire, several classrooms damaged, and graffiti containing racial slurs, including "death to Arabs," spray-painted in what appeared to be a price tag attack, according to the police.
Price tag attacks usually refer to Jewish right-wing extremists vandalizing Palestinian property or religious sites, usually over government policies they disapprove of.
"We will not let extremists set fire to the coexistence that still exists," Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is set to visit the school on Sunday, wrote on her social media page late Saturday evening.
The school is the biggest Jewish-Arab institute run by Jewish and Arab educationists since 1998, where more than 1,000 pupils study.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the government is making "tremendous efforts" to restore calm to Jerusalem, which "does not correspond with the attack on the bilingual school." He added that Israel "condemns such acts" and that he will "work sternly and unanimously to bring calm and order back."
Education Minister Shai Piron said in a statement that the incident is "violent, criminal and despicable" and sought to "undermine the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs," calling upon the police to bring those responsible to justice.
On her social media page, leader of the left-wing Meretz Party Zehava Gal-On slammed the government over a recent nation-state bill that "gives legitimacy to damaging the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs."
The nation-state bill, a controversial bill that the government adopted but awaits voting in the parliament, defines Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and stresses the Jewish character of the state and acknowledges the national rights of Jews in Israel, while also downgrading the status of Arabic from an official language to that of a special status.
Critiques of the bill, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and the Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, said the bill puts the Jewish character above democracy of the state and will in fact make non-Jews second-grade citizens by legislation in a country where Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population.
Netanyahu has been accused by critiques from the left of advancing legislation to appease far-right members of the Likud party ahead of the internal elections.
Tensions have been running high between Jews, Arabs and Palestinians in Israel in recent months, after the kidnapping and killing of a 15-year old Palestinian from east Jerusalem in July by Jewish extremists. Prior to that, three Israeli teens were also abducted and killed by Palestinian militants in June near Hebron.
Also arousing the tensions was Israel's expansion of its settlements in east Jerusalem, on lands annexed during the 1967 Middle East War, home to more than 300,000 Palestinians.
A major part of the recent escalation is over the status quo in Temple Mount, a place holy to both Jews and Muslims. Recently, Jewish politicians called for letting Jews pray at the Muslim Temple Dome complex, which they are not allowed to do in line with the status quo settlement with Jordan, which co-runs the site.
More than 11 Israelis have died in militant attacks in recent months in Jerusalem, as the tensions threaten to spill across Arab communities throughout Israel.