Arab protesters against Operation Brother’s Keeper to return the three abducted yeshiva students “should be treated as terrorists in the full sense of the word,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman declared on Saturday.
He spoke after hundreds of Israeli Arabs protested in Umm el-Fahm on Friday in support of Palestinian security prisoners. They waved Palestinian flags and protested against Israel’s use of administrative detention.
“With spirit and blood, we will redeem you, Palestine,” and, “We will redeem the martyrs,” they chanted.
Liberman said he plans to speak to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, from his Yisrael Beytenu party, to ensure the police work swiftly and determinedly to “stop the inciters so we can bring them to justice.”
The foreign minister plans to bring for discussion in Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting how to confront “the dangerous extremism among Israeli Arab leaders.”
“Yisrael Beytenu will demand that the government discuss the dangerous radicalization of the Israeli Arab leadership and to deal with it in a thorough, severe matter,” Liberman said.
The demonstration began on Friday afternoon as participants blocked traffic on Route 65 and shouted in support of the kidnapping of the boys.
Police were sent to the area to keep order and pushed the protesters back to Umm el-Fahm using stun grenades and tear gas. Demonstrators threw rocks at officers. Seven people were injured.
Police reinforced their forces in the area after demonstrators hurled stones in their direction.
Hadash chairman Muhammad Barakei took part in the protest.“This demonstration is a protest against the violence of the IDF and against the illegal arrests and illegal activities of the IDF in the territories,” he said.
Aharonovitch reacted angrily to reports that some of the demonstrators chanted for more kidnappings of soldiers.
“These are grievous statements that attest to the radicalization of parts of the Arab public,” he said.
“The inciters will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law and in accordance with the law. We will not allow these events to interrupt the daily lives of citizens in this country.”
Police vowed to prevent the demonstrators from “harming the routine of Umm el-Fahm residents and endangering motorists.”
By the evening, police had quelled the unrest. Earlier on Friday, police had warned motorists to stay away from the area where the protest was due to take place.
Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening that “Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is trying to gain popularity by inciting against Arabs and their leaders.
“It is a mixture of racism and opportunism,” he said.
“We are aware that our political activity makes people like Liberman upset and angry, and this is a sign we are on the right path, because if he feels comfortable with our politics, we would have to check ourselves,” Zahalka said.
As for the demonstration, he said: “We are implementing our right and duty to protest against Israeli crimes in the occupied territories and prisons.”
Awad Abderfattah, secretary-general of the Balad party, told the Post the event was meant to protest the ongoing IDF operations in the West Bank and to support Palestinian prisoners.
He estimated that there were at least 200 police present.
“There will be a meeting to decide on how to proceed,” he said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.