Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on Mahmoud Abbas Sunday, accusing the Palestinian leader of fueling unrest in Jerusalem and across the country by deliberately inciting against the Israeli establishment and its leaders.
The statement came as violent protests by Israeli Arabs persisted in the wake of the shooting death of a Kafr Kanna man after a run-in with police Friday.
Speaking at a Likud Central Committee convention, Netanyahu vowed to crack down on the ongoing riots and outbreaks of violence in the capital and elsewhere, and stated that security forces were prepared to act forcefully in order to ensure the safety of Israeli civilians.
“We are witnessing increasing efforts to incite to violence, to instigate terror, and we are acting decisively against those who attempt to set fire to Jerusalem,” the prime minister said.
“The incitement we experience does not come only from Islamic radicals, but also from the Palestinian Authority, its leader, and the Fatah movement.”
The meeting was called for the party to set the terms for upcoming primaries.
The Central Committee set January 6 as the date for a vote on who will lead the party into the next elections, which some analysts believe will be held in the course of 2015. Likud MK Moshe Feiglin announced that he would stand against Netanyahu; no other candidates have yet to say they will challenge for the post. Two weeks before that vote, the party will vote on possible changes to its constitution.
Netanyahu has pointed a finger at Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in the past, accusing them of inciting terror attacks and ongoing violence in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu added that he will not “repeat this mistake” of withdrawing from territories in order to achieve quiet, and stressed that he would never “bet on the security of the state.”
Earlier Sunday, the prime minister said Israeli authorities would take action against Arab Israeli protesters who are “calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.”
The riots that have been sparked in Arab Israeli towns in the Galilee over the weekend are being instigated by Hamas, the Islamic Movement and the Palestinian Authority, he added.
“Standing behind this incitement are, first of all, the various Islamic movements: Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel. In the forefront, at least vis-a-vis the agitation on the Temple Mount, are the Mourabitoun and the Mourabiat — movements engaged in incitement and which are financed by funds from extremist Islam,” he said. “I have instructed that they be outlawed.”
Netanyahu continued with a strident criticism of Palestinian leaders.
“But also standing behind this incitement is the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]. The website of their official body, Fatah, explains that the Jewish people were, in effect, never here, that the Temple was never here, that David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the kings and prophets of Israel are all fiction. This is nothing less than a clear attempt to distort not only the modern truth, but also the historical truth. Against these distortions and these gross lies, we must tell the truth to our people and to the world,” he said.
The prime minister’s remarks came amid a fresh wave of riots in the capital and northern Israel, as many Arab Israelis took to the streets to protest what they said was the unjustified killing of 22-year-old local Kafr Kanna resident Kheir Hamdan by police over the weekend.
On Sunday evening, some 30 youths burned tires in Kafr Kanna, according to police, while dozens of others set dumpsters on fire, damaged traffic signs, and hurled stones at Israeli officers.
Near Taibe, an Israeli motorist was attacked and his car burned when he was set upon by a mob.
On Route 1, the main artery between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, stones were thrown Sunday evening at a bus near the Arab town of Abu Ghosh.
Arab youths threw stones at the Jerusalem Light Rail near the Beit Hanina neighborhood Sunday evening, causing damage to one of the cars. Police were searching for the perpetrators.
Earlier in the day, Arab Israeli university students launched protests against the killing of Kheir Hamdan and called for a Third Intifada.
Thousands of Arab protesters massed Saturday afternoon and evening along the main street of Kafr Kanna, protesting Hamdan’s death. The town mayor called the incident “murder in cold blood.”
Arab Israeli umbrella groups called a general strike on Sunday in protest at the shooting. In line with the strike, many Arab schools and colleges were shuttered.
Businesses closed en masse in Sakhnin, Shfaram, Majd al-Krum, Tamra and Arabe. Partial closures were also evident in other towns. In the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Acre, most Arab businesses were open as usual.
Adiv Sterman and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.