Defense minister: Arab MKs, PA to blame for terror attacks

Naftali Bennett offers support to Netanyahu, as opposition parties submit — and lose — no confidence motion over his handling of crises

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at the Knesset on May 29, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at the Knesset on May 29, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday blamed the Palestinian leadership and Arab Israeli Knesset members for two recent terror attacks and Israel’s escalating security challenges.

Speaking at a cornerstone ceremony for a heritage site honoring Druze IDF soldiers, Liberman said that the attacks were a direct result of Palestinian incitement.

“The two attacks are the result of ongoing incitement by the Palestinian leadership and by the Knesset members of the Joint (Arab) List and the Islamic Movement, who visited the families of terrorists who murdered innocent Israelis,” he said. “They refuse to condemn terror attacks and continue to incite.”

Two Druze policemen were killed in a July 14 terror attack, in which three Israeli Arabs emerged from the Temple Mount firing guns they had stashed on the holy site.

After that attack, Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, which holds 13 seats in the current government, rejected the use of weapons and violence in resisting Israel.

“Our position is clear and unequivocal,” Odeh said in a Facebook post. “The Arab public has chosen a path of political and popular struggle, and we strongly oppose any use of weapons.”

Odeh also blamed Israel for the attack, saying, “The occupation is the root of all evil, the main demand now is the immediate opening of the gates of the Al-Aqsa Mosque!”

Immediately following the shooting, Israel closed the Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, for 48 hours, and installed metal detectors at the entrances to the site.

On Friday, members of the Joint List met with leaders of the Islamic Waqf, the Jordanian body that administers the Temple Mount, before marching with protesters through East Jerusalem toward the Old City. Police accused the lawmakers of riling up the crowds in what was an already tense situation.

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 31, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 31, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Friday night, a 19-year old Palestinian, Omar al-Abed, broke into the West Bank settlement of Halamish and stabbed to death three members of a family who had gathered to celebrate the birth of a grandson — grandfather Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, and son Elad Salomon, 36.

At the weekly meeting of his Jewish Home faction on Monday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett offered his full support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid the crisis.

“The government of Israel is acting with responsibility, unity and thoughtfulness in the face of a complicated diplomatic and security situation,” he said. “I fully back the prime minister, Israel Police and all the security forces.”

The education minister also called on the opposition to back the government, saying that now was a time for unity.

“As a rule, at times of a security challenge, we must work together and prevent a discourse of mutual blame-games,” he said. “I turn to the opposition members: This is a time for unity.”

Despite the call for unity, no-confidence motions were presented to the Knesset by the Zionist Union, Meretz and Joint List.

Avi Gabbay, head of the Zionist Union faction, said in a statement that “in light of the situation — especially in light of the situation — we are submitting a no-confidence motion today.”

Newly elected head of the Israeli Labour party, Avi Gabbay, seen at a press conference a day after the results of the Labor primaries were announced, leaving him as new head. July 11, 2017. (Miriam Alster/ FLASH90)
Labor party leader Avi Gabbay (Miriam Alster/ FLASH90)

Gabbay said that the country had lost faith in the way that Netanyahu was handling the situation.

“Even at a time of crisis, it is incumbent upon us to tell the public the truth,” he said. “Netanyahu does not run the country well. He doesn’t listen to the Shin Bet or other security forces, and therefore more and more Israelis no longer trust him or believe in his ability to run the country.”

Gabbay called on Netanyahu and Bennett to listen to the advice of security personnel rather than to try and use the situation to score political points.

On Sunday, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he would withdraw his no-confidence motion in light of the security situation, saying that at this time, the government must “unite against terrorism.”

All three motions of no-confidence were defeated by the coalition.

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