Politicians from across the spectrum on Tuesday praised the arrest of a cleric who heads the banned Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.
Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested late Monday following a raid on his home in the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement that Salah, who has served prison time for incitement to violence, posed a danger to the public.
“Salah expressed himself in a way that encouraged extremism and murder. Therefore he posed a threat to the public,” Erdan said. “I hope that this time he will be brought to justice and will be sent to jail for a long time.”
Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) told Israel Radio that he felt there was a connection between Salah and the July 14 terror attack on the Temple Mount, which was perpetrated by three men from Umm al-Fahm.
“The incident when Israeli Arabs entered the Temple Mount and murdered police officers was unprecedented,” he said. “It is no coincidence that they came from Umm al-Fahm, where Sheikh Raed Salah operates. We must work to ensure that he is behind bars.”
Galant went on to slam Palestinian nationalist lawmakers from the Balad faction of the Arab Joint List, comparing them to Salah and urging that they be removed from the Knesset.
“There is no real difference between Salah and Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas or Jamal Zahalka of the Joint List,” he said. “They should not be allowed to have a platform in the Knesset to harm Israel.”
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay also backed the arrest, saying Salah helped sow mistrust between Jews and Arabs.
“I support the security forces in the arrest of Raed Salah, a man who encourages hatred and is involved in fanning the flames,” he said. “There must be a determined struggle against the extremists who incite, to eradicate and uproot the violence. Arab society in Israel is an inseparable part of the country, and we must support and improve our shared life with the Arab community in Israel and patch up the seams that have come undone with this community in the past few years. We, as leaders, have the responsibility to act accordingly.”
Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party, also said Salah was trying to undermine Jewish-Arab relations.
“Raed Salah is a prominent and toxic inciter, who encourages terrorism and damages the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel and in general,” she said.
Yehuda Glick of the Likud Party said that the arrest of Salah was the right move. “It should have been done a long time ago,” he said. Salah is “a man who incites hatred and terrorism.”
Arab leaders did not share the sentiment, however.
Mohammad Barakeh, a former member of Knesset and the head of the Higher Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, strongly condemned the arrest.
“The government incites against the Arab public. I urge the government to put an end to administrative detention and persecution,” he said.
The Higher Committee, an umbrella body of Arab civil society organizations, is slated to meet in Nazareth later on Tuesday to discuss the arrest.
Salah’s wife, known as Umm Omar, said her husband was not surprised at his arrest. “There has been a campaign of incitement against him in the media and political persecution by the government,” she said.
Salah will be brought to the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon, where police are expected to ask to extend his remand.
He was released from prison in January after serving a nine-month sentence for incitement to violence and racism.
He was convicted over an inflammatory sermon he delivered in 2007 in Jerusalem in which he praised “martyrdom” for the sake of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the flashpoint Temple Mount.
Salah has spearheaded campaigns asserting that “Al-Aqsa is in danger,” focusing on the claim that Israel intends to change the status quo at the contested holy site. The allegation, denied by Israel, was at the heart of last month’s violence and tensions surrounding the site.
The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement was outlawed in November 2015. The government charged the group with links to terrorist groups and inciting a wave of violence. “Any person who belongs to this organization or who provides services to it or who acts within its framework is henceforth committing a criminal offense punishable by a prison sentence,” a cabinet statement said at the time. The move also allowed for the confiscation of all property belonging to the group.
The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement rejects the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians and boycotts national elections on the grounds that they give legitimacy to the institutions of the Jewish state.
The Northern Branch had also funded a group called the Mourabitun, whose protests against Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount have occasionally turned violent. In September last year, Israel banned the group from the Mount.