Bennett calls for military operation in east Jerusalem to root out terror

Economy minister says, in face of terror wave, Israel should move from defense to attack, as it did in 2002's Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank during the second intifada.

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Naftali Bennett
Only a military operation can stop the current wave of terrorism striking the country, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday, a day after two Arabs attacked worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue with a gun and axes, killing five.
“We need to bring in Border Patrol forces, make arrests, gather intelligence and be there permanently, not just when there’s an attack,” Bennett told Army Radio.
Rather than put security guards in restaurants, synagogues and preschools, forces must go to the source of the attacks, the Bayit Yehudi leader said. “We need to move from defense to offense, like we did in [Operation] Defensive Shield.”
Defensive Shield was a major military operation in Judea and Samaria in 2002 conducted in response to the suicide attacks of the second intifada that involved incursions into Ramallah, Tulkarm, Kalkilya, Bethlehem, Jenin and Nablus. The IDF put then-PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s presidential compound in Ramallah, the Mukata, under siege and enforced strict curfews for Palestinians.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, however, called for the public not to give up on peace.
“The day after the despicable murder of worshipers in a synagogue reminds us of other times – before the establishment of the State of Israel,” she said at the Kibbutz Leadership Conference.
“The general feeling is that there is no partner [for peace] and there is nothing we can do. I don’t believe that; there is always something to do.”
According to Livni, the Right takes advantage of terrorism to say “we told you so, there is no partner,” but a differentiation must be made between security and settlements.
“We have to try to make an agreement with whoever we can and get the world on our side,” she said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) visited the site of the attack and called a bullet hole in an ark heartbreaking while commending yeshiva students for continuing to learn Torah as usual.
“The first thing we need to do is calm the boiling pot that is Jerusalem,” he said. “We must fight terrorism with all the legal tools we have and show our presence in [Arab] neighborhoods, but still give hope to the young people there.”
He called for cooperation “with moderates in the region,” saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must prepare a plan of action for the short and long term.
“We can’t continue like this… We need a new response, the current ones have failed,” he said.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On spoke out against the current response of destroying the homes of terrorists’ families, calling it collective punishment.
“Destroying houses proved years ago to be ineffective and harmful to uninvolved people.
Therefore, then IDF chief of staff [and now Defense Minister] Moshe Ya’alon accepted recommendations to stop using it as a form of punishment,” she stated.
Though “my blood boils and my heart was broken by the terrible terrorist attack, responsible leaders must take a deep breath and not use methods that are not only ineffective but could create an opposite effect of creating a new generation of terrorists,” she said.
Later Wednesday, as MKs discussed the massacre in the plenum, MK Mordechai Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) also called house-razing an ineffective strategy and suggested revoking citizenship or resident status; not returning bodies of terrorists; not allowing a mourning tent to be built outside their homes; or confiscating their land as alternatives.
“The Public Security Ministry did not adjust itself to the developing terrorism,” Yogev said.
MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), meanwhile, said: “I can’t imagine what terrorists’ families are thinking. We Jews see life as sacred and these lives were cut short in a moment. I can’t understand it.”
Gafni said he also can’t understand why people would want to ascend the Temple Mount at this time “not because of Halacha, but because of logic.”
Meanwhile, Arab MKs blamed the government for the attack.
“What we’ve seen in recent weeks is the direct result of an aggressive and dangerous policy by the Netanyahu government,” said MK Basel Ghattas (Balad).
The “months of war,” he added, began when Netanyahu refused the fourth round of prisoner releases in recent negotiations with the Palestinians, and he accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity in Gaza and Jerusalem.
“Continuing the occupation and denying the Palestinian people’s freedom are the source of all killing and bloodshed,” Ghattas said.
At the same time, however, he indicated that he opposed killing people at prayer, saying the end does not justify all means.
Ghattas’s words echoed a statement by three Arab party leaders condemning the attack on Tuesday, but blaming Israel for causing it.
MKs Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), Ibrahim Sarsour (United Arab List-Ta’al) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) had said there was no justification for attacks on civilians and those in prayer, but blamed the murders on “the continuing occupation, repression and killings in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem,” the Israeli-Arab news website Al-Arab reported.
The MKs also blamed Netanyahu for a lack of hope in the political horizon, and warned the Israeli government against any steps that would escalate the situation.
“Serious negotiations that lead to the end of the occupation and to a just peace are the only possible ways to end the cycle of violence,” they added.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri responded in the plenum, representing the government, saying terrorism is the fruit of Palestinian Authority incitement.
“Starting on Monday, [Arabs on] social networks have blamed Israel for the death of a bus driver even though the pathological report shows it was a suicide and a Palestinian coroner approved the report,” Peri stated.