Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday called for action against “terrorist” elements within Israel, saying that just as the military was responsible for combating Palestinian terrorism, the police were responsible for combating “homegrown,” or Jewish, terrorism.
“We must not become confused. We must not let any citizen take the law into his own hands, even in the most difficult moments,” she said at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Eilat.
While she praised the solidarity and empathy Israeli society had shown for the families of the three Jewish teens who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank, Livni said a less pleasant face had also been shown in the “difficult days” following the announcement of their deaths, “ugly voices calling for violence, vengeance rallies in the streets, malicious graffiti against Arabs and Arab violence against policemen.”
Warning of the volatile atmosphere in the Middle East, in which “anyone might throw the match that engulfs the entire region in flames,” Livni said these were “trying times for Israeli society as a whole,” Jews and Arabs alike.
“I believe in Israeli society,” she said. “[But] I believe the role of the justice minister is to help Israeli society not to deviate from its founding principles, both through statements and determined, evenhanded enforcement of the law.”
Livni said that she would not discuss “the circumstances of the murder of the Arab boy in Jerusalem,” as police were still investigating the matter.
“I trust the police, and am receiving updates about developments in the investigation. Be that as it may, things don’t have to come to murder to be shocking. It is enough to see what is happening on social media – which have become a dangerous and violent platform for incitement.”
Such incitement, she said, was the antithesis of Zionism.
“I hear and see the messages of incitement and the calls for revenge. This is not the way of Zionism; this is not the way of the State of Israel. We must not allow extremism to prevail. We must not allow terrorists to dictate our agenda and make us deviate from our moral compass,” said Livni.
“We must not allow homegrown extremists to bring us down to moral bankruptcy. We must not let ourselves be dragged after their impassioned, demagogic speeches. Yes, the murders are heinous, despicable, painful. But unlike terrorist organizations, Israel is a lawful state, a democracy that has a well-respected legal system, a police force and an army. The army’s job is to act against outside terrorism, and that of the police is to act against homegrown terrorism.”
Livni added that Israel continued to face grave threats, particularly from Hamas.
“These are difficult days. We buried our kidnapped youths, and we continue to come under fire from Gaza against Israeli citizens,” she noted.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization with which there is no hope for peace – we have an ongoing conflict with it that didn’t begin today and won’t end tomorrow, but Israel is strong enough to handle it.”