Israeli leaders on Thursday lashed out at the Palestinian Authority and its leader PA President Mahmoud Abbas after a rash of attacks on Israeli troops in Jerusalem and the West Bank, accusing Abbas of encouraging attacks and “riding on the back of incitement” against Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a direct appeal to Abbas: “This won’t help you. Not the stabbings, not the ramming attacks, not the sniping attacks, and not the incitement… We will do everything necessary to guard our security, secure our borders, and guarantee our future. We will do this with you or without you.”
Netanyahu was apparently responding to earlier comments by Abbas’s office that said a major escalation in violence Thursday was the fault of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which was unveiled last week.
The premier made the statement to media during a security tour while at a checkpoint south of Jerusalem in Gush Etzion in the West Bank. Before embarking on the West Bank tour, Netanyahu went to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem to visit soldiers who were injured in a ramming attack overnight.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused the PA of exploiting terror attacks against Israel.
“Terror organizations and the head of the Palestinian Authority are riding on the back incitement on the social networks, whether its because of the [Trump plan] or some other excuse,” Erdan said.
“We will take determined action to preserve our sovereignty and stop every attempt to initiate a wave of terrorism,” Erdan said after a security briefing. “From past experience, the most sensitive flashpoint is the Temple Mount. I have ordered to employ all our means to prevent displays of incitement and copycat attacks.”
Channel 12 news reported, meanwhile, that the Israeli security establishment does not believe Abbas is responsible for inflaming tensions.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett held a security assessment at the Israel Defense Forces Headquarters in Tel Aviv. A statement from his office said the IDF would step up its readiness in the West Bank ahead of the weekend, and would respond to the ongoing attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi was in Bethlehem Thursday evening for a security assessment.
“We have no intention of allowing terror to prevail. The directive is very clear to those on the ground… to thwart and prevent all [terror] activity,” Kohavi said. “When I say terror I’m also referring to stones, firebombs, arson balloons — they are all terror.”
The Thursday statement by Abbas’s office said that the so-called deal of the century has “created this atmosphere of escalation and tension by trying to impose fake facts on the ground, which we have repeatedly warned against.”
“Any deal that does not meet the rights of our people and does not aim to make a just and comprehensive peace will inevitably lead to this escalation that we are witnessing today,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’s spokesperson, in a statement posted on the PA official site Wafa.
“The Palestinian people and their leadership will stand strong against all these conspiracies and they will foil them just as they did in all previous conspiracies, regardless of the sacrifices,” the statement said.
Abbas is due at the UN next week to express opposition to the proposal and demand Israel not push ahead with plans to annex areas of the West Bank under the contours of the US proposal.
Abbas suggested Monday that security ties with Israel and the US were still intact, despite having earlier announced their cessation in response to the release of the peace plan.
Attackers in Jerusalem and the West Bank targeted Israeli forces in three incidents on Thursday, and significant clashes took place in Jenin during the demolition of a terrorist’s home. Violence around Gaza also continued to spiral.
A predawn car-ramming injured 12 soldiers in Jerusalem in a suspected terror attack, a shooting attack lightly injured a Border Police officer outside Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and a soldier was lightly injured in a drive-by shooting along a West Bank highway.
In the clashes in Jenin, a Palestinian police officer and a Palestinian police cadet were killed in separate incidents under unclear circumstances.
On Wednesday, a Palestinian teenager was also shot dead by Israeli troops as he threw a Molotov cocktail at them in Hebron.
The IDF on Thursday said it was sending additional troops to the West Bank in light of the increase in violence.
In the south, the past week has seen a stream of rocket and mortar attacks and dozens of balloon-borne explosive devices launched from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, generally landing in or near communities closer to the Hamas-ruled enclave, including on Wednesday night and Thursday. Israeli aircraft responded by attacking Hamas infrastructure in southern Gaza shortly after midnight on Thursday.
Tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem have been heightened since the January 28 release of Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The PA immediately rejected the proposal, which was widely seen as overwhelmingly favorable toward Israel.
In the week and a half since the plan’s release, the military has noted a significant increase in violence in the West Bank, with regular riots, rock-throwing and intense clashes during Israeli arrest raids.