The diverse range of Israel’s governing coalition, including Arab and left-wing parties, does not get in the way of fighting terrorism, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said at The Jerusalem Post London Conference on Thursday.
“We are doing everything we think we can do to help,” she said. “Sometimes the politicians push the security forces to do more. We are free to do anything we need. We encourage people to carry their personal weapons.”
The government has begun collecting illegal weapons from the Arab-Israeli sector, she added.
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Shaked said the wave of terrorist attacks in Israel, which took 11 lives in a week and included a stabbing of an Israeli on the morning of the conference, seems to be coming from “lone wolves,” with no specific terrorist organization behind them.
Asked if Israel will launch another large-scale anti-terrorism operation in the vein of 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield, she said: “Back then it was something totally different. Terrorist organizations and the Palestinian Authority were launching the attacks. Now it’s lone-wolf attacks. It’s not organized.”
Regarding the Ukrainian refugees, Shaked said Israel’s policies have been “very generous.”
More than 9,000 Jews and their descendants have immigrated to Israel from Ukraine in the past month, as well as 3,000 from Russia and the rest of the Former Soviet Union, and as many as 50,000 may arrive in total, she said.
“Israel is the home of the Jewish people, the only Jewish state,” Shaked said. “Therefore, our first responsibility is to them. Israel is the only country in the world where people flee Ukraine and in the first week get citizenship, social security and housing.”
Israel has agreed to accept six times more Ukrainian refugees per capita than the US, she added.
Shaked said she was “not optimistic” about the prospects of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. However, the mediation is important and reflects Israel’s growing stature on the world stage, she said.
“We should do everything we can in order to help solve this conflict,” she added. “Israel as a Jewish state should leave no stone unturned.”
Shaked has often shown discomfort at having to compromise with the more left-wing elements in the current government. But “so far, it’s functioning well,” she said at the conference.
“We’re doing an experiment of a government that has Left and Right and Arabs... As long as I can keep to my values, I think the government can last,” Shaked said.
As for whether Shaked and Bennett will continue to run together in the next election, she said: “We share the same values, and I believe in [the] future we’ll cooperate as well.”