Israel’s Netanyahu pledges more action against Palestinian attackers

Reuters  /  February 12, 2023

JERUSALEM –  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday promised a stronger Israeli response in dealing with a spate of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, as pressure swelled within his right-wing government to employ more severe tactics.

His remarks came two days after a car ramming attack in the Jerusalem outskirts killed three Israelis and two weeks after a lone Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside a synagogue, adding to rising anxiety in Israel over security.

Tensions are also high in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have carried out hundreds of arrests in recent months during near-daily raids that have seen bloody gun battles with Palestinian militants. At least 42 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed this year.

“The cabinet is meeting today to prepare for an even broader action against those carrying out terrorism and their supporters in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, while preventing as much as possible harming those uninvolved,” Netanyahu said, using a term common in Israel for the West Bank.

He did not offer specifics in his comments at the start of the cabinet meeting.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu’s far-right national security minister, said however that police had already begun a major enforcement campaign in East Jerusalem that would include measures from handing out traffic tickets to demolishing houses of Palestinian attackers.

Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist firebrand who takes a hard line against Palestinians, was met at the scene of Friday’s ramming attack by an angry crowd who demanded action.

Speaking in Cairo, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians were facing a “lethal assault,” and repeated a pledge to pursue action against Israel before the United Nations and International Criminal Court.

Ben-Gvir told reporters ahead of the cabinet meeting that he was determined to carry out an operation in East Jerusalem similar to a large-scale military campaign Israel launched in the West Bank during a Palestinian uprising 20 years ago.

His reference to the 20-year-old operation known as “Defensive Shield” that saw major combat in West Bank streets was dismissed as misguided by a number of former security officials in media interviews.

“It seems to be a remark that is not backed up by a deep understanding of what needs to be done,” ex-National Security

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; additional reporting by Ali Sawafta; editing by Frances Kerry