Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said the government would take steps to combat incitement against Israelis by the Palestinian Authority, Islamic Movement and even other countries in the region as Israel is in the grips of “a wave of terrorism.”
At a press conference convened after four stabbing attacks in Israel on Thursday, Netanyahu lauded the soldiers, police officers and citizens of Israel for their bravery, and said the government would “restore security” to the country.
“In recent days and hours I have seen displays of heroism by soldiers, police and – no less – by civilians. I see this in Jerusalem, Kiryat Gat, Hebron, Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv and now in Afula,” he said, listing several cities where terror attacks took place Wednesday and Thursday. “Israelis are acting with bravery, composure and determination to neutralize and eliminate the terrorists. This requires extraordinary courage and resourcefulness and we are proud to be part of a country that has such citizens.
In a show of unity and force, Netanyahu was accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and acting Israel Police chief Bentzi Sau.
“We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism with knives, firebombs, rocks and even live fire. While these acts are mostly unorganized, they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and – no less and frequently much more – the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is igniting the ground with lies regarding our policy on the Temple Mount and the purported changes that we want to make to the status quo,” the prime minister continued. “This is an absolute lie. We are also taking action against the inciters and the attackers.”
The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, said earlier in the day that his organization intends 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.
Netanyahu said the government would adopt “aggressive steps” to combat the Islamic Movement’s incitement.
Talking the podium next, Ya’alon also insisted that Israel had no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, which is considered holy by both Jews and Muslims.
Erdan, meanwhile, said Israel would be “increasing the minimum sentences even for stone and Molotov cocktail throwing, so that they [the perpetrators] know they will sit for a long time in prison.”
“Everywhere a terrorist attacks, police or good citizens are there to stop the terrorist,” Erdan said.
Hinting at a desire to bring Zionist Union into his government, Netanyahu said it was easy for opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s to criticize as he was not in the ruling coalition.
“Maybe, if I weren’t in power, I would hear hints,” he said, adding that Israel needs unity.
But the prime minister suggested he’d be open to a coalition government with the 24-seat Zionist Union, which would significantly expand his narrow 61-seat government. “At this time we need to join forces, we need a broad national front,” he said.
Herzog said in response that Netanyahu “runs from speech to speech but words don’t stop terrorism and don’t serve security.”