Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the Israeli authorities would act forcefully 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.
“Israel is a nation of law. Whoever violates the law will be punished severely. We will not tolerate disturbances and riots. We will take determined action against those who throw stones, firebombs and fireworks, and block roads, and against demonstrations that call for our destruction. We are not prepared to tolerate more demonstrations in the heart of our cities in which Hamas or Islamic State flags are waved and calls are made to redeem Palestine with blood and fire — calling in effect for the destruction of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu told ministers at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“I have instructed the interior minister to use all means, including evaluating the possibility of revoking the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel,” he added.
The prime minister said it was the government’s responsibility to defend the Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel, which he said Palestinian leaders negated.
“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.
Netanyahu also addressed the call by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, for the “annihilation” of Israel on Saturday night, as well as a report that the Iranians may have violated the terms of the interim nuclear deal.
The international community “faces a simple choice — to surrender to Iran’s demands in a deal that’s dangerous not only for Israel, but for the entire world, or to demand that Iran dismantle its capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon,” he said.
“Israel will not agree to a deal that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state — it is a danger to us all.”
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.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid also addressed the weekend’s riots in the cabinet meeting, urging the government to take a more proactive role in calming tensions.
“Ministers, members of the government and Knesset members need to engage in putting out flames, not fanning them. We have to continue living here together, and Israeli police must continue to operate within the Arab sector. The fact that politicians are using this incident to gain political capital shows a lack of national responsibility,” the finance minister said in a statement.
Overnight Sunday, Israeli Arabs removed an Israeli flag from a police station near Misgav in the north, Army Radio reported, replacing it with a Palestinian flag. Police officers removed the Palestinian banner and raised the Israeli flag over the station a short while later and launched an investigation into the incident.
Riots near the northern Arab town of Taibe forced the closure of Route 444 on Sunday morning until police arrived to disperse the crowds.
Protesters burned tires and police arrested an 18-year-old suspected of involvement in the disturbances as police officers brought the riot to an end. The road was reopened a short while later.
In a separate incident, a Nazi swastika symbol was spray-painted Sunday morning on a bus stop at a junction in the northern Arab town of Fureidis, near Haifa.
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 of the shooting, and Israel Radio reported that further demonstrations were expected in the afternoon. 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 opened normally.