Likud and Jewish Home, coalition allies, in war of words over security
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Likud and Jewish Home, coalition allies, in war of words over security

Bennett's party lashes out at Netanyahu, saying he is all talk, no action; PM's loyalists hit back, saying populist point-scoring endangers Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Friday accused Jewish Home’s leader of endangering Israel’s security by populist point scoring, hitting back at comments from the right-wing party saying that the prime minister was all talk but no action.

Netanyahu’s party reacted furiously to the coalition partner’s attack, accusing Education Minister Naftali Bennett of inconsistency.

“Bennett, who initially supported the removal of the metal detectors [from the entrance to the Temple Mount], and afterwards declared that he backed the prime minister, couldn’t last more than a minute and a half under pressure from the media and public opinion,” Likud said in a statement.

The last of a series of security measures erected at entrances to the Temple Mount were removed early on Thursday. They had been installed at the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), following a July 14 terror attack in which assailants used guns smuggled into the compound to kill two policemen guarding near there.

The Likud statement accused the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home of engaging in political point scoring at the expense of national security.

“If there is anything dangerous to the security of Israel, it is people who sit in the security cabinet and the compass that leads them is not what is best for the citizens of Israel, but rather their personal interests and the headlines they can generate,” the Likud statement said.

Palestinians celebrate outside the Lions Gate entrance to Jerusalem's Old City on July 27, 2017 after more Israeli barriers were removed from the Temple Mount entrance. (AFP/ AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinians celebrate outside the Lions Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on July 27, 2017 after more Israeli barriers were removed from the Temple Mount entrance. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

“Israel’s security is not a matter of populism or rounds of politics, it is a sacred principle, and anyone who childishly and irresponsibly uses it as a platform for tweets endangers Israel’s security more than anything else,” it continued.

The war of words was sparked by a statement from the right-wing Jewish Home party on Thursday which said that the fact that Netanyahu caved in over the Temple Mount sent a much stronger message than any words he utters.

“The damage caused by the capitulation and the severe harm caused to security must be rectified in a determined war against terrorism, not with words,” the Jewish Home said. “We must stop giving in and awarding prizes to terror.”

The party’s spokesperson said in a statement that “all the words of recent days are not helpful.”

Earlier Thursday, Bennett said Israel “emerged weakened” from the crisis, with its sovereignty at the Temple Mount undermined.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara console relatives of the three members of the Salomon family who were killed in a terror attack in Halamish on July 22, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara console relatives of the three members of the Salomon family who were killed in a terror attack in Halamish on July 22, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

On Thursday, during a shiva call to the Salomon family, Netanyahu told them he supports the death penalty for the Palestinian terrorist who killed three members of their family on Friday night in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

“The death penalty for terrorists — it’s time to implement it in severe cases,” Netanyahu told the mourners. “It’s anchored in the law. You need the judges to rule unanimously on it, but if you want to know the government’s position and my position as prime minister — in a case like this, of a base murderer like this — he should be executed.”

Also on Thursday evening, Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu had discussed with US President Trump’s Middle East team another policy long promoted by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman: annexing West Bank settlement blocs to Israel in exchange for incorporating large Arab population centers currently in Israel to a future Palestinian state.

When then-foreign minister Liberman proposed this plan at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, Netanyahu publicly disowned him.

A senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Thursday evening that this idea “may have been one of many ideas discussed several weeks ago in the context of a peace agreement and not in the context of a separate annexation.”

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