Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday launched a scathing verbal attack against Arab lawmakers and the Islamic Movement in Israel, accusing them of inciting the latest bout of violence.
Just an hour after a knifing attack in Jerusalem left two Israelis seriously injured, Netanyahu took the podium in the Knesset and said that Palestinian terrorism “does not come from frustration over the lack of a diplomatic solution, but from a desire to destroy us.
“That was the motive for terrorism in the early years of Zionism and that’s what it is today,” he said.
Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List walked out of the plenum when the prime minister took the podium at the opening meeting of the Knesset’s winter session. In their absence, Netanyahu railed against some Arab MKs’ alleged endorsement of violence against Israelis.
“MK [Basel] Ghattas said that because the Henkin couple [who were killed on October 1 in the West Bank] were settlers, they’re not innocent,” Netanyahu said. “Does this mean that it’s acceptable to murder them?”
Turning his ire to MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint List), who he said should be investigated by police because of comments she allegedly made encouraging Palestinians to support terror attacks against Israelis and start a “real intifada,” Netanyahu said she had justified terrorist attacks against Jewish settlers and Israelis alike.
“She said to a Hamas magazine just two days ago that the actions of individuals isn’t enough and there needs to be a real intifada,” he went on. “This is unbelievable, honored colleagues. A member of Knesset in Israel calls for wholesale terror attacks against Israeli citizens, and there’s nothing more justified than opening a criminal investigation against her.”
Netanyahu exhorted the country’s Arab minority to cleave to the path of coexistence and “to repel the radicals among you.
“I beseech you, choose the right path, the path of coexistence,” he added.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog took the podium next and called Netanyahu the “acting prime minister” for Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett.
“You’re leading Israel on a path in which you believe. The conflict that you’ve managed in recent years based on your views has morphed into a knife in the back of the citizens of Israel across this country,” he lashed out at Bennett. “You, who promised to be Mr. Security and defense minister. You failed. The despicable terrorists have come to the fore on your watch.”
After Herzog called for a push toward a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, right-wing MKs and ministers interrupted his speech, sending the Knesset session into a tailspin, with a cacophony of shouts from both sides of the aisle.
“You brought missiles upon us,” shouted Bennett, as pandemonium descended on the august plenum of the Knesset.
Herzog said that “if I were prime minister,” he would propose a regional peace summit to try to improve Israel’s situation — a suggestion that heightened the melee.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) told Herzog that he would more energetic in quieting the MKs, except that legislators from Herzog’s own Zionist Union were among those interrupting. Herzog objected that this was not the case, and that it was MKs from Meretz who were partly to blame, adding that Meretz had skewed “very left-wing” of late.
This and other exchanges prompted widespread hilarity in the House — with Netanyahu, Herzog and numerous other politicians caught on camera laughing — in stark contrast to the mood outside parliament. Israeli TV stations were interspersing their coverage of the Knesset with updates from the scenes of Monday’s terror attacks, and news on the medical condition of the victims, including the boy who was fighting for his life after being stabbed minutes earlier in Pisgat Zeev.