Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of spreading “lies” about Israel to incite Israeli Arabs and Palestinians alike, and announced new measures to crack down on rampant unrest.
Following a three-hour security cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, the prime minister detailed a series of new measures Israel will take to check the wave of violence that has spread from East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Arab Israeli cities.
“We are in the midst of a campaign of incitement and terrorism directed against the State of Israel and its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This campaign has continued since the foundation of the state and even before then. We have defeated terrorism until today and we will defeat it this time as well.”
Netanyahu said Israel would deploy increased numbers of security personnel across the country, push for the demolition of terrorists’ homes, and adopt harsher measures against rioters, including fining the parents of children who throw stones.
“We will take a firm hand against those who throw stones, Molotov cocktails, and of course fireworks,” Netanyahu said. “We will outlaw organizations that are fomenting the situation in Jerusalem.”
Speaking at a press conference after the security cabinet meeting, Netanyahu laid the blame for the recent spike in violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at Abbas’s feet.
“Today, Abu Mazen [Abbas] has again proven that he is irresponsible,” he said. “Instead of calming the situation he is inflaming it. Instead of speaking the truth, he is disseminating lies to the effect that we intend, or are operating in some way, to change the status of the holy places – this is a gross lie.”
Netanyahu criticized the international community for remaining silent in the face of Abbas’s “wild incitement” and appealed to Israel’s Arab population to not be drawn further into the fracas.
“The sad thing is that the international community that rushes to condemn every balcony that we build in our capital city, simply ignores this wild incitement of Abu Mazen’s and thus it encourages him to continue actions that could ignite the entire Middle East.”
“I would like to call on Israel’s Arab citizens: Do not be swept away by propaganda and incitement,” Netanyahu said. “Don’t be swept away by an inflamed minority. You are citizens with equal rights and equal obligations, and the first obligation of any citizen is to respect the law.”
The meeting served to update ministers concerning decisions adopted after consultations with security sources following two terrorist attacks against Israelis carried out by Palestinians on Monday. IDF soldier Almog Shiloni and 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus were killed in separate stabbing incidents Monday afternoon.
Israel’s senior ministers also discussed the recent rioting in Arab towns that began in protest of the police shooting and killing of an Arab man after he attacked a police vehicle with a knife Saturday in Kafr Kanna. Violent clashes have continued in the following days amid rioting in East Jerusalem that has raged unabated for the past four months, focusing on the Temple Mount.
Earlier in the day Abbas warned that the Palestinians will not allow Israeli extremists to “contaminate” the Temple Mount, and said that allowing Jewish prayer at the site would risk a global religious war.
The PA leader also maintained that the rioters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the disputed holy site had the right to defend themselves, and said Muslims and Christians would never recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Netanyahu has repeated several times in recent days that he does not intend to change the status quo at the site — the holiest in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam. Jews are allowed to visit but forbidden from praying at the contested site, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, but where it allowed the Muslim Waqf authorities to remain in administrative charge.
Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have repeatedly said in past weeks that the PA president was fanning the flames of violence in the capital. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday said Abbas’s incitement had been a factor in an ongoing wave of terrorism, and urged the PA to help calm the situation.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.