The attack was swiftly condemned by Tzipi Livni, head of the ruling Kadima Party, as well as politicians from across the political spectrum.
Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni on Thursday spoke with Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell's family and criticized the attack against him, saying that it was "intolerable." "This is a lawful state, and Israeli society has firm values," Livni said, adding that both the government and the whole society must condemn this behavior.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded to the attack at a Labor faction meeting Thursday morning, saying that "this is a case where an intellectual came under attack because of his views. We are returning to a dark period."
"We won't allow anyone, of any dark corner of Israeli society, harass people, not in general and especially not when it comes to people with a voice as rare and clear as Ze'ev Sternhell's," Barak said.
The Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee was scheduled to hold an urgent meeting following the attempted attack on Prof. Sternhell.
The committee's chairman, MK Ophir Pines-Paz called the attack against Sternhell "a cowardly terror activity carried out by miscreants. I call on the police and Shin Bet to make every effort to quickly find those behind the incident and to ensure they are imprisoned for many years."
Education Minister Yuli Tamir, considered a friend of Sternhell, called for the tightening of security measures around the professor's home.
"The police must take the incident seriously and use their professional knowledge to guarantee Ze'ev Sternhell's safety. I think this attack is extremely grave and worrying. It should receive our full attention and mustn't be taken lightly," Tamir told Army Radio on Thursday.
MK Haim Oron, leader of left-wing Meretz party, expressed his hope that Sternhell would recover quickly and said that "this thuggish dangerous incident is the result of a continuous blind eye turned to the severe violence toward soldiers, police and anyone who doesn't hold the same views as the bullying, radical right wing."
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) also commented on the attack against the professor, saying that "the attempt to hurt Professor Sternhell is the result of the authorities' lenient attitude and helplessness in face of the radical right, which enjoys a Knesset lobby."
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said the "radical right" posed an existential threat to Israeli democracy.
"The law-enforcing authorities must stop their lenient policy toward lawbreakers from within the settlers and their supporters before another political assassination occurs in Israel," Oppenheimer said.
He added that "those who don't enforce the law amongst the violent settlers will eventually have to deal with a Jewish terror organization operating in the heart of the State of Israel."
In response to the calls for violence against prominent leftists, police were guarding Oppenheimer's house.
MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, chair of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said that "the combination of nationalism and religious fundamentalism promotes bloodshed and is destructive for the State, and not only for outstanding persons such as Professor Sternhell."
"This assassination attempt mustn't be dismissed under the pretense that it was just meant to scare someone. The attack threatens Israeli society entirely ," Ben-Sasson added.
Though not quoted in the above article, conservative leader Bibi Netanyahu of the Likud Party also had harsh words, saying "this is a sickening attack by abominable people who are not part of the public debate in Israel. They need to be distanced from society and placed behind lock and key." An exception to the trend was the far-right National Jewish Front, which denied responsibility but refused to condemn the attack, either, once again citing their belief that Sternhell supporting attacks on Israeli settlers.
Obviously, these radical right-wing elements are a threat to Israeli society and deserve the full force of the law to come down upon them. I also agree with Mr. Oppenheimer that this act did not occur in isolation, but flows out of increasingly violent right-wing settler activity that the state of Israel needs to put in check. It is beyond evident now that those who traffic in violent, expansionist settlement policies are part of a broader movement that is flat out dangerous for Israel's continued survival as a free and democratic nation, and those of us who are truly pro-Israel need to recognize and throw our weight against them.
It is deeply troubling to me that Israel is seeing this type of reactionary, targeted violence that aims to undermine its status as a liberal democratic state from the inside. I am heartened that the Israeli government appears to be taking the matter seriously, and I hope it will serve as a spark point for a public backlash against the right-wing elements which, in tandem with Palestinian and Islamic terrorist organizations, pose the greatest immediate threat to Israel's security as a democratic state and its position in the world.