Senior minister threatens major West Bank crackdown
Amid uptick in violence, sources warn of ‘Defensive Shield 2,’ refering to massive 2002 anti-terror operation; closure on East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods possible
Officials close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened the army could launch “another Defensive Shield” to quell Palestinian violence, referring to the IDF’s massive crackdown in the West Bank in 2002 in response to the Second Intifada.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) on Sunday, who is acting as prime minister while Netanyahu is away, said a large operation could be in the offing and also threatened a closure on Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
Speaking to Army Radio Sunday morning, Katz said that “we may need to launch Defensive Shield 2.”
In March 2002, Israel launched a raid on several West Bank cities to squelch Palestinian terror in the West Bank and Israel proper, which had become a daily occurrence during the Second Intifada. The operation aimed to destroy Hamas and other terror groups’ “infrastructure” — via which they were arming and dispatching suicide bombers. Nearly 500 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more arrested during the operation, which also left 29 Israeli soldiers dead.
“We can impose a closure on the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and stop the privileges of freedom [of movement] to work — these are steps that if faced with security [challenges] we will be forced to used them,” said Katz. “So in Issawiya they will be closed off inside the neighborhood and not work in the most attractive jobs.”
“Will there be an Operation Defensive Shield 2? Maybe,” he added.
Israel imposed closures on several East Jerusalem neighborhoods a year ago amid a similar uptick in attacks in the capital.
The Israel Hayom newspaper also quoted officials close to Netanyahu saying there could be another Defense Shield
“They want a third intifada? They’ll get a second Defensive Shield,” a source close to the prime minister was quoted as saying. “There will be many steps taken in the field which will harm Hamas’s infrastructure.”
After two terror attacks this past week left four Israelis dead, Netanyahu was set to convene a series of high-level security meetings over the next few days on the escalation in violence in the capital and West Bank upon returning to the country Sunday afternoon.
Netanyahu spoke with senior Israeli defense officials before leaving the US late Saturday night.
He was expected to go straight from Ben Gurion International Airport to the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv upon his arrival on Sunday to meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the head of the Shin Bet security agency, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Netanyahu was to meet with the security cabinet Monday night after the conclusion of the Sukkot holiday to discuss operations against Hamas in the West Bank, the Israel Hayom daily reported.
On Sunday morning, police said they would close off Israel’s Old City to Palestinians, in a rare and possibly unprecedented step following the strong of terror attacks.
Earlier in the evening politicians from Israeli opposition parties criticized Netanyahu for his alleged lack of leadership Saturday night following the terror attack.
Opposition leader and Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog charged that the Netanyahu government has demonstrated a “total failure in handling security and the national task of protecting Jerusalem’s security.”
“Netanyahu has lost control of the security of Israeli citizens,” he wrote on Facebook.
“The government has no [real] plan to fight terrorism, this is crystal clear to all Israelis,” he wrote.
While the “heinous terrorists” must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, Herzog said the government “must have polices and employ measures and not just make declarations and hollow slogans.”
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said the “current leadership vacuum” leaves Israeli citizens vulnerable to terror attacks.
“Netanyahu, who for years took credit for establishing security, is responsible for the deterioration of that security,” the former justice minister and chief negotiator with the Palestinians told Channel 2 Saturday.
“The reinforcement of security forces in the fight against terrorism is not in United Nations speeches or debates, but in the making of decisions that will minimize the tensions,” she said.
“The leadership vacuum that exists is a ticking time bomb and leaves Israeli citizens exposed to terrorism which damages Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” she added.
Former foreign minister and chairman of the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party Avigdor Liberman posted news of the attack on Facebook with the caption: “This is what the loss of control and deterrent power looks like.”