Half of Netanyahu's cabinet attends protest against govt security policy
In the wake of two shooting attacks in the West Bank last week, various government ministers joined hundreds protesting outside the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday.
They demanded the government enact harsher punishment and more effective deterrence mechanisms against terror, and promote safety and security for settlers in the West Bank.
Major roads were closed in Jerusalem as the crowd chanted and sang, and staged a sit in.
The demonstration, which was organized by West Bank settler councils, used the same slogan as another protest that took place outside the Prime Minister's residence on Friday night: "we're done being silent".
The settlers are protesting following two shooting attacks that targeted Israelis in the West Bank last week.
The first, which happened in the settlement of Ofra, north-east of Jerusalem, injured seven and killed an infant boy on Sunday last week. The attacker was killed by Israeli forces on the following Thursday.
On Friday, a second shooting killed two soldiers and injured a third in Givat Assaf junction, a few kilometers away from Ofra, in what is considered a copycat attack.
The Israeli military put the whole area on lockdown, including the nearby city of Ramallah, in which the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority are located.
Multiple clashes happened between Palestinians and Israeli military forces, but settlers also showed their anger.
Settlers took hold of the contested settlement outpost of Amona on Friday.
On Saturday, three settlers were arrested by border police after throwing stones at passing Palestinian vehicles, as part of a demonstration of 50.
Two Israeli soldiers later tried to release them, which led to a confrontation with the police. The two soldiers had to seak medical attention, and were suspended, an IDF statement said.
A string of politicians spoke to the crowd, including six prominent government ministers, in a strange move that amounted to the government basically protesting against itself.
total of 6 ministers participated this morning in an event against their own government policies: Galant (housing), Bennett (education), Ariel (agriculture), Levin (tourism), Shaked (justice), Elkin (Environmental Protection). and more MKs from the Likud. pic.twitter.com/6wGuyg6vCo— Tal Schneider טל שניידר تال شنايدر (@talschneider) December 16, 2018
They were joined by several majority parliamentarians.
Naftali Bennett, the minister for education from the Jewish Home party, has been critical of his coalition partner prime minister Netanyahu's security policies. He gave a failed ultimatum last month get the defense ministry, or effectively bring the coalition down.
"The prime minister promised two weeks ago to return the IDF to its strength and it has still not happened," the right-wing politician said.
Netanyahu appointed himself defense minister after Avigdor Liberman quit last month over the prime minister's handling of the last round of fighting in Gaza, and was expected to be confirmed today in cabinet, despite Bennett's protest.
- Netanyahu, conciliatory, gets his way -
The ministers spoke just before the weekly cabinet meeting, in which Netanyahu defended his security record, arguing that he had acted swiftly and decisively by ordering the demolition of the "terrorists' homes and the cancellation of work permits from anyone in their family".
The ministers exchanged tough language, with Bennett reportedly leaving in the middle of the session, but it is unclear which of the settlers' demands Netanyahu would not in effect satisfy to.
"I ordered the legalization of thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria", said the prime minister, using the wording that identifies the West Bank as two regions of Israel, "and we will build two more industrial zones, and 82 more homes in Ofra".
"The Palestinian terrorists think they will uproot us from the heart of our country - in our actions we will make it clear to them and to the world that we're here to stay" said Netanyahu.
The prime minister then segued into likening the attacks to anti-semitism, saying US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Austrian leader, the far-right politician both had clearly stated that being anti-zionist meant being anti-semitic.
Despite the pressure from settler street, the PM's current weak political position means the government is effectively limited in trying to bring in new legislation that would radically alter the way the West Bank is currently administratively organized.
Executive decisions can be made, like the one tabled by justice minister Shaked to legalize thousands of settler homes, but there is also an issue of enforcement.
A recent campaign by a collective of former high-ranking officers is calling on urgent Israeli disengagement in the West Bank.
"Bibi, it's time to divorce the Palestinians", goes the campaign, which has sprouted on billboards and online banners throughout the country.
In Gaza, less than 100 km away, the main event of Hamas's 31st anniversary celebration was getting under way.
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it's true...we have tried everything with these people. they will never give up. yes, Bibi is right, populate Judea and Samaria full blast. with time they will have to accept. parallel to that, a novel but more agressive strategy has to be applied.