Netanyahu and Ya'alon at a cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv August 10, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held separate meetings on Jerusalem and on illegal migration on Tuesday, ordering increased security presence in the capital at the former meeting, and a means of keeping detention facilities for migrants open at the latter.
Regarding Jerusalem, the prime minister convened the top police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) brass, along with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, to discuss the recent sharp increase of violent incidents in the capital. Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and state prosecutor Shai Nitzan also took part in the discussion.
Barkat sent Netanyahu a sharply worded letter on Friday, blaming Aharonovitch for failing to provide the manpower in Jerusalem to deal with the recent uptick in violence.
Aharonovitch then blamed Barkat for acting out of “narrow political considerations.”
In a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu noted that there had recently been instances of rock-throwing, rioting and violence in Jerusalem, and that the meeting was designed to determine what level of force and what steps were necessary to keep the peace in the city.
He said the current situation could not be tolerated as the “norm,” and that there had therefore been a decision to increase the security forces in confrontation-prone areas and to take forceful action against law-breakers.
Earlier in the day, he convened another meeting with some of the same participants to discuss how to combat illegal migration in light of last month’s High Court of Justice ruling striking down the Knesset’s “infiltrator law” and ordering the closure of the Holot detention center within three months.
“There is a supreme national interest to prevent the entry of new infiltrators into Israel and to encourage the exit of those here, and that is how we will act,” Netanyahu said during the meeting in his office.
Weinstein said Israel would “continue to deal with the infiltration phenomenon while obeying the law and High Court decisions.”
Netanyahu directed the participants to come up with legislation that would “articulate the government’s determination to continue to act against illegal infiltration.”
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar has been tasked with formulating guidelines for legislation that will take the High Court ruling into consideration, but also enable the continuation of efforts to stop infiltration and to detain illegal migrants.
Sa’ar said at the meeting that the government’s obligation to its citizens necessitated giving the state the tools to continue to act with determination against illegal infiltration.
Meretz head Zehava Gal-On, however, blasted Netanyahu for ignoring the High Court’s ruling, saying his directive to find ways to keep the detention facilities open “gives legitimization to incitement against the High Court and is tantamount to rebelling against the rule of law.”
“Instead of the prime minister finding a solution to the distress of the residents of south Tel Aviv,” she said, “he lends a hand to those inciting against the Supreme Court and those seeking asylum.”
Also Tuesday, Netanyahu announced that David Meidan, whom the prime minister appointed in 2011 as his special coordinator on POW and MIA issues, was stepping down at his own request and that his replacement would be Col. (res.) Lior Lotan.
Meidan served as Netanyahu’s personal emissary in negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit.
Lotan, a veteran of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, is a leading authority on hostage situations and negotiations, having commanded the IDF’s hostage negotiation team from 1998-2005. In 1994 he received the IDF’s Medal of Honor for his role in the operation to release abducted soldier Nachshon Wachsman.
He was seriously wounded in the operation.
Lotan’s first job will be to retrieve the remains of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed over the summer during Operation Protective Edge.