Netanyahu seeks ‘incitement’ probe of firebrand MK Zoabi
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Netanyahu seeks ‘incitement’ probe of firebrand MK Zoabi

PM accuses Joint (Arab) List lawmaker -- along with Hamas, the PA and Israel's Islamic Movement -- of fomenting recent and future violence

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Balad MK Hanin Zoabi protesting at a Haifa demonstration against the IDF's operation in the Gaza Strip, July 2014 (photo credit: Channel 2 screen capture)
Balad MK Hanin Zoabi protesting at a Haifa demonstration against the IDF's operation in the Gaza Strip, July 2014 (photo credit: Channel 2 screen capture)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for a criminal investigation into outspoken Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, based on comments she has made allegedly encouraging Palestinians to support terror attacks against Israelis in order to create a “real intifada.”

Netanyahu asked the attorney general to open an investigation into Zoabi, of the Joint (Arab) List party, and said he planned use every possible resource to fight those who incite violence.

“I am not ready to accept incitement from within,” he warned.

Netanyahu quoted statements Zoabi had made to a Hamas publication Friday, allegedly supporting recent violence against Israelis and promoting active steps to fight Israeli security forces.

“Hundreds of thousands of worshipers should go up to al-Aqsa in order to stand against the Israeli plot for the blood of East Jerusalem residents,” she reportedly said.

Netanyahu said Zoabi had called on Palestinians to support the recent wave of terror attacks on Israelis.

“Today it’s only the work of a few individuals, but we need national support. If individual attacks continue without national support, they will be extinguished within the next several days, and therefore hundreds of thousands are needed to start a real intifada,” the prime minister quoted Zoabi as saying.

Zoabi has been the subject of previous incitement investigations and numerous attempts to remove her from the Israeli parliament by fellow lawmakers.

In August 2014, police recommended that Zoabi be put on trial for incitement, threats and abuse directed at a police officer. In June of 2015, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved a criminal probe into the incident.

Zoabi, a vociferous critic of the Israeli government and Israeli society, first came under fire for taking part in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010. In 2014 she refused to label as “terrorists” the men who abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and set off a chain of events that culminated in the Gaza war last summer.

In his statement during the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu also named Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic Movement in Israel as sources of recent incitement.

On Thursday, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, said that his organization intended to respond to what he called “continued Israeli escalation” against the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

“We have a package of plans ready be unleashed immediately,” Salah said. He blamed Netanyahu for the recent escalation in violence.

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives at the Magistrate court in Jerusalem on March 26, 2015, to receive his sentencing for incitement to violence and racism against Jews (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, arrives at the Magistrate court in Jerusalem on March 26, 2015, to receive his sentencing for incitement to violence and racism against Jews (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Much of the violence in recent weeks has centered around Palestinian claims that Israel is seeking to change the five-decade-old status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims. The site, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, is administered by the Muslim Waqf. Under rules set by Israel, Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray at the site. Israel has repeatedly denied that it is intending to make changes to the current rules and says the accusations are incitement to violence.

Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed Palestinian leaders’ rhetoric of “delegitimization” of Israel lies at the root of ongoing terrorism against Israelis.

With no end in sight for the violence – 14 stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians have occurred in the past week – Sunday saw the deployment of 16 freshly mobilized reserve Border Police companies. Netanyahu ordered the call-up on Saturday.

The total number of those mobilized could reach 1,300-2,000, to be mostly deployed in and around Jerusalem.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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