With rockets falling on the South from the Gaza Strip, and rioting in Jerusalem as well as among Arab Israelis in the North, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held urgent security consultations Saturday that ended with only an anemic statement to the press.
Netanyahu, according to the statement, summed up the meetings he held with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen by saying the IDF was operating against Hamas targets and was ready “for all developments.”
The statement said counteractions were being conducted “responsibly” and “with determination” in order to return the quiet.
“If needed,” he said, “additional force will be used.”
Regarding the rioting, Netanyahu directed security forces to take a “strong hand” against violence and rioting, stressing that Israel would not accept that type of behavior.
“Those who break the law will be dealt with severely,” he said.
Netanyahu repeated a call he made last week for the Arab-Israeli leadership to immediately work to end the rioting.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday praised the police for immediately arresting the rioters at Kalansuwa and in the Arab-Israeli region of the Triangle, and – on a Facebook posting on Saturday – called on the courts to hand down strict sentences.
“Now I expect the legal system to deal with this with a heavy hand and mete out punishment that will send an unequivocal deterrent message to those who enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship but act like terrorists,” he wrote. “These incidents make clear again that there is no place for these people in the State of Israel, and that until then their place is in jail.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On responded to Liberman by saying he was “fanning the flames” of hate and racism between Jews and Arabs, and that it was the “right of Arab citizens of Israel to demonstrate in their homeland, and [this] is not dependent upon the whims of Mr. Liberman.”
Liberman visited Sderot on Friday where he made statements demanding action against Hamas and terrorism.
“Not all terrorist targets can be destroyed from the air. Most of the rocket production sites are under schools, hospitals and mosques,” he said.
“The talk and the messages being sent to Hamas about a cease-fire is a serious mistake,” he added, even though he is a senior cabinet minister and a member of the eight-member security cabinet where the decisions are made regarding how to respond to Hamas. “The idea that ‘quiet will be answered with quiet’ is a serious mistake.”
Liberman said it was unacceptable that “after the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers and two consecutive weeks of rocket attacks, Israel’s approach is still that quiet will be answered with quiet.”
Instead of dealing with the problem, he said , it is being postponed.
“If it does not blow up sooner, it will blow up later with much more noise,” adding that Israel could not accept a reality in which Hamas controls what happens while Israel continues to respond after the fact.
Liberman said Israel needed to target Hamas leaders, including Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh, regardless of where they are, and even – as is the case with Mashaal – if they are based in Qatar.
He said it was necessary to send a message to Qatar, which supports Hamas and hosts former MK Azmi Bishara, who Liberman said is passing on money to anti-Israel actions inside Israel. Bishara fled the country in 2007 after the police questioned him on suspicion of aiding and abetting the enemy.
Liberman said he hoped US Congress would take steps against Qatar, and that organized American Jewry would make its voice heard on this matter as well.