The security cabinet voted to strip family members of terrorists of residency and citizenship rights when it met late Saturday night in the aftermath of a deadly Palestinian shooting attack on a synagogue that claimed seven lives Friday night.
“Whoever tries to harm us – we will harm him, and those who assist him,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.
The decision to strip family members of terrorists of their residency and or citizenship rights would necessitate the passage of legislation, the text of which is scheduled for debate at Sunday's government meeting.
Separately, the cabinet also decided to strip family members of terrorists of their national insurance benefits.
These measures could only be applicable to terrorists who had Jerusalem residency cards or who were Israeli citizens.
The security cabinet had also been expected to debate expelling family members of terrorists.
Other measures include expediting gun permits for citizens, a police and military operation to collect illegal firearms and steps to strengthen West Bank settlements.
In addition, the home of the terrorist who carried out the synagogue attack would be immediately sealed in preparation for demotion.
Prior to the security cabinet decision, Netanyahu spoke of steps the security forces had already taken in the wake of the synagogue attack and another terror attack in Jerusalem on Saturday.
“We have already carried out widespread arrests of those who support, assist and incite terrorism,” Netanyahu said.
“We are deploying forces. We are reinforcing units and we are doing this in various sectors,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu added that in adopting a firm response, the government was not seeking to escalate the situation, but it was “prepared for any scenario.”
He urged Israeli citizens not to engage in vigilante activity in response to the attack. “I again call on the citizens of Israel: Do not take the law into your own hands. We are not in the days of the Underground. We have a sovereign state, with excellent military and security forces. Let them carry out their work,” he said.
Netanyahu also offered his condolences “to the families of those who were murdered in this awful and despicable terrorist attack in our capital Jerusalem. This was a reprehensible attack at the entrance to a synagogue on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
Prior to the meeting, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that the security cabinet would “advance steps to increase deterrence in order to restore security to the citizens of Israel.”
Cohen instructed Israeli missions around the world to speak with their host governments about taking a stronger stand against incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terror groups. Such activity “motivates and encourages terrorism,” Cohen said.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich struck a harsh tone prior to the meeting, stating the east Jerusalem neighborhoods where the terrorists had lived should be sealed off.
He also urged the security cabinet to order massive settler building in Area C of the West Bank. This would include approval of close to 3,500 homes in the E1 area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement and the approval of all projects on the agenda of the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria.
Deri attended as observer
Shas Party leader MK Arye Deri participated in the meeting as an observer. He had originally been a member of the cabinet but lost his membership when the High Court of Justice ruled that he must be stripped of his ministerial titles.
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Chief Ronen Bar was also in the meeting, as was IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi.
Prior to the meeting, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who arrived Saturday night from a private visit in the US which he cut short, held a security assessment with Halevi, Bar and other security officials.
Gallant said, “I instructed Israel’s defense establishment to increase defensive activities, particularly in the Jerusalem area, and to increase preemptive operations against anyone planning attacks on our citizens.”
In addition, he said, “I instructed our professional echelon and legal teams to assess a series of possible sanctions against terrorists and their families. We will not allow a situation in which an individual who receives the benefits awarded by the State of Israel goes on to murder Israeli citizens, and then continues to remain a resident of the state.”