The security cabinet on Sunday authorized the use of administrative detention against far-right Jewish suspects to help law enforcement catch the terrorists who killed a Palestinian toddler in Duma, near Nablus, last week.
“We are determined to vigorously fight manifestations of hate, fanaticism and terrorism from whatever side,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier told the full cabinet at its weekly meeting. Our policy toward these crimes is zero tolerance.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a meeting with Meretz MKs at his Ramallah office, said condemnations were not enough and that steps must be taken against the terrorists.
Abbas vowed that as long as he is president, he will make sure Israelis are not attacked, but pointed out that he is 80 years old and doesn’t have much time left.
Terror attack in Duma
“I will continue fighting violence with full strength,” Abbas said. “As long as I am here, ISIS and Jabat al-Nusra will not be... We confiscate weapons every day, we have also found car bombs, but I am afraid that at this rate, one day I will wake up and find a [settler] outpost in the middle of Ramallah.”
Abbas has instructed the PA security forces to prevent all armed attacks against Israelis, the London-based Rai al-Youm online newspaper reported on Sunday.
The PA president would rather see a “popular resistance” against Israel in the West Bank than violent attacks, and he had already said as much to a meeting of Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Friday, a senior Palestinian official told Rai al-Youm.
Palestinians would be encouraged to step up “popular resistance” against Israel, especially at IDF checkpoints and on land threatened with confiscation in the West Bank, the report said.
The security cabinet said it viewed the arson at the Dawabsha family home on Friday, allegedly by Jewish extremists, as a “terrorist attack in every respect.”
It directed the security services to take “all necessary steps” to find those responsible for the assault and to prevent similar attacks, including the use of administrative detention, which allows law enforcement officials to detain suspects indefinitely without a trial or access to an attorney. The process is typically used against Palestinians in Judea and Samaria who are suspected of involvement in terrorism.
The security cabinet instructed parliamentarians to advance draft legislation known as the “anti-terror bill,” which it said also should be applied to Jewish extremists who engage in terrorism against Jews.
It also established a ministerial committee chaired by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that is to take additional measures to combat hate crimes and terrorist attacks. Committee members will include Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
The order came as the security forces, led by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), conduct an intensive manhunt for the Duma arsonists.
In 2013, Ya’alon declared that “price tag” attackers belong to unlawful associations, in a bid to provide security forces with a greater range of legal tools to combat the phenomenon, which consists of vandalism and attacks by far-right Jewish youths.
Under certain circumstances, membership in unlawful associations allows law enforcement to imprison suspects for up to six months without a trial, and deny them access to lawyers. Law enforcement and security forces also can seize property under their expanded powers.
Security forces are braced for Arab violence in the coming days following the Duma attack. But while there were many clashes in the West Bank on Friday and Saturday, calm appeared to be restored by Sunday.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki is expected to file a complaint against Israel with the UN Human Rights Council on Monday over the arson attack.
Hamas officials, meanwhile, strongly condemned Abbas’s remarks against terror attacks on Israel, with the movement’s spokesman Abdel Rahman Shadid accusing the PA of protecting settlers and pursuing security coordination with Israel.
Fathi Qarawi, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said Abbas has threatened to “crush the resistance” if its members carried out a retaliatory attack against Israel. PA security forces were continuing to crack down on Hamas supporters in the West Bank, Qarawi said.
But even as Abbas warned against violence, he continued to verbally attack Netanyahu in his meeting with the Meretz parliamentarians.
The prime minister would prefer an intifada over peace, he told them: “Netanyahu’s best weapon is an intifada,” Abbas said, adding that he is prepared to renew negotiations without preconditions, but that Israel must hold to commitments he said it had already made, such as freezing settlement construction and releasing the 26 Palestinian terrorists who were scheduled to be freed in April 2014.
Israel refused to free the prisoners after Abbas formed a government with Hamas.
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat repeated these demands when he met with Interior Minister Silvan Shalom in Jordan last month.
Abbas also told Meretz he opposes boycotts against Israel because he recognizes Israel and cooperates with it on security, but does support boycotting settlements.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely sent Erekat a letter of condolences in which she underscored Israel’s commitment to bringing the terrorists to justice. It was the joint responsibility of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reduce tensions and maintain calm, she said.
Earlier in the day when Netanyahu spoke with his cabinet, he said the battle against hate crimes and terrorism was one of basic humanity, and was the foundation of Jewish values.
“This is what distinguishes us from our neighbors. We deplore and condemn these murderers. We will pursue them to the end. They name public squares after the murderers of children. This distinction cannot be blurred or covered up. It is important to say this even as we utter our condemnations and unite against the criminals among our people,” the prime minister said.
The other victims of the Duma attack, Ali’s Dawabsha’s mother, Reham, and four-year-old brother Ahmed are in critical condition at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. The father, Saad, is in critical condition at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.