Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of the security cabinet Monday evening to approve a series of steps aimed at tamping down the spike in violence and providing Israelis with a greater sense of security.
The meeting came as voices were raised on the Right – including from Education Minister Naftali Bennett – for the government to drastically ratchet up steps to counter the surge in terrorism, and also to build in the settlements as a response.
The calls for increased building in the settlements is likely to be a bone of contention within the government since Netanyahu is expected to be reluctant, concerned about the ramifications this would have for Israel in the international community.
In a symbolic step aimed at sending a message to the Right, Netanyahu summoned Kiryat Arba local council head Malachi Levinger and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan to his residence before the security cabinet meeting.
The two men have been camped out at a protest tent set up nearby.
According to a statement put out by his office, Netanyahu said the government was acting firmly and had taken “unprecedented action” to ensure the security of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
“This is a difficult struggle, but we will win it,” the prime minister told the settlement leaders just an hour before a protest against the deteriorating security situation in the territories was held outside his residence.
Dagan, on his Facebook page, said he and Levinger presented Netanyahu with their demands regarding security and construction.
“Unfortunately, we have not yet reached agreement,” he wrote.
On Sunday, immediately after Netanyahu returned from his trip to the US where he addressed the UN General Assembly, the prime minister convened a meeting of the country’s top security officials, where a list of steps was drawn up. He said the steps were aimed at “deterring and punishing” the terrorists.
They included “expediting the demolition of terrorists’ homes; expanding administrative detentions of rioters; and banning those engaged in incitement from the Old City and the Temple Mount.”
Before Monday evening’s security cabinet meeting, Netanyahu praised the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for arresting the terrorists responsible for last week’s murders of Naama and Eitam Henkin.
“We are acting with a strong hand against terrorism and against inciters,” he said. “We are operating on all fronts.”
Netanyahu said four additional IDF battalions had been moved into Judea and Samaria, and thousands of police had been brought to Jerusalem to deal with the spike in violence.
“The police are going deeply into the Arab neighborhoods [in Jerusalem], which has not been done in the past,” he said. “We will demolish terrorists’ homes. We are allowing our forces to take strong action against those who throw rocks and firebombs. This is necessary in order to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens on the roads and everywhere else.”
The prime minister said Israel was “not prepared to give immunity to any rioter, inciter or terrorist anywhere; therefore, there are no restrictions on the action of our security forces.” He also said Israel would “lift restrictions regarding action against inciters” and “act against the Islamic Movement, which, together with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, is the main source of incitement.”
“We are in a difficult struggle,” he said, “but one thing should be clear – we will win. Just as we defeated previous waves of terrorism, we will defeat this one, as well.”
Before the meeting, Netanyahu visited Adel Banita and her toddler son at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem. Both were wounded in the Jerusalem stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday.
Banita’s husband Aharon and another man, Nehemia Lavi, were killed in that attack.
Netanyahu also went to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the capital to visit Moshe Malka, who was stabbed at a gas station near the Old City on Sunday morning.