At an emergency Knesset session Monday, MKs argued over how the government should respond to the recent increase of violence in Jerusalem, with many in the opposition arguing that live fire will not effectively stop rock-throwing.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan took opposition MKs to task for blaming the situation on the government’s policies, pointing to the long history of terrorism against Jews in Israel.
“Do you think Israeli citizens’ memories are erased after every election, like there’s a delete button, and you can convince them that the violence started in this term and comes from not accepting Yesh Atid’s plan of a regional peace conference or because of a lack of peace and a diplomatic horizon as [Meretz MK Tamar] Zandberg said?” Erdan wondered.
The minister said “the public is not as dumb as you think.
It knows that terrorism didn’t start under Netanyahu. It didn’t even start under [Labor predecessor] Mapai. It started more than 100 years ago.”
The problem, Erdan explained, is that Israel’s enemies will not accept the Jewish people’s presence in this land.
According to Erdan, the increase in violence is meant to draw attention to the region and thus allow an opening for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make unilateral moves.
As such, the minister posited that “members of the opposition, perhaps without meaning to do so, are helping Israel’s enemies with their mistaken declarations.”
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) interjected to say that Erdan is inciting against the opposition, and Erdan responded by accusing him of hypocrisy, since the opposition had just said Netanyahu’s policies are responsible for terrorism and the death of Israeli citizens.
Erdan added that the government will not accept the violence in Jerusalem, and that it arrested 66 people involved in terrorism in the last week, about half of whom are minors.
“I believe in freedom of religion and expression, and no one wants to maintain the status quo more than we do. The truth is, I don’t like the status quo that Muslims can pray and Jews can only visit, but no one intends to change it,” he explained.
However, Erdan said there are changes to the status quo made by Islamist groups. The two changes he pointed to are actions by groups, funded by the Islamic Movement and Hamas, whose goal is “to make Jews’ visits to the Temple Mount hell” by harassing them, and Arab minors who hide in the Al-Aksa mosque overnight – which is against the law regarding holy places in Israel – with weapons in tow.
“Our plan is to examine every link in the chain that leads to the increase of this phenomenon, and to pass laws, and to use the means the police has, along with punishments...
We will open two more police stations in east Jerusalem to increase our presence.
Funding for security in Jerusalem was not only not cut, but it was significantly increased,” he said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) opened the discussion with a call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do soul-searching on Yom Kippur and to think about why the security situation in Jerusalem deteriorated under his watch.
“Do not remain under the illusion of slogans. Stop the farce. Stop the continued failure of taking care of Israel and Jerusalem’s security,” he said.
Herzog pointed to remarks the Likud campaign said ahead of this year’s election, like if he and MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) lead the country, they will divide Jerusalem and Islamic State will reach the capital.
“Since that is a political argument, some may say we should forgive you for those statements on the eve of Yom Kippur. But Jerusalem will not forgive you. Whoever wounds the heart of Jerusalem and abandons its security, will not be forgiven,” Herzog declared.
The Zionist Union chairman said the government should not change the instructions for opening fire; rather they should instruct themselves to open in negotiations with the Palestinians.
“If you don’t immediately renew the diplomatic process, if you do not create hope for movement and change, you will be responsible for the breakout of the third intifada.
You and no one else,” Herzog concluded.
MK Masud Gnaim (Joint List) used his time at the stand to deny that the Temple Mount is a holy place in Judaism and to blame former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Mount in 2000 for the second intifada, even though Palestinian officials have said that the wave of terrorism was planned in advance.
“Since then, Israeli governments have not learned their lesson,” he stated. “Instead of calming the situation, the current government continues a policy that leads to more conflicts. Netanyahu thinks the only solution is more and more force. By pitting a bullet against a stone, you are justifying murder.”
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg also said that the government should not respond to violence with more violence, with changing the instructions for opening fire or by continuing administrative detentions.
However, she said, the reason there is violence in the first place is that when things are calmer, the government does nothing to improve municipal services in east Jerusalem or to reach a peace agreement.
Zandberg accused the government of finding the violence convenient, so that they do not have to negotiate with the Palestinians.
MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), the former commander of the Jerusalem police, said that the minute a young Palestinian is killed by Israeli fire, the wave of attacks will get much worse, and that a better solution is to increase arrests and bar young Palestinian men from the Temple Mount.
“Many deaths on the other side will lead to the opposite effect [of the government’s intention] and we cannot reach that point. We beat the previous intifada with good judgment, arrests and intelligence,” he recounted.
The special meeting took place during the Knesset’s recess, and was initiated by Yesh Atid with support of the Zionist Union and Joint List.
However, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid was absent from the plenum for the entire debate, as were most of the party’s MKs. Lapid opted to participate in an interview with a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) group on the WhatsApp smartphone messaging application, instead.