Economy Minister Naftali Bennett criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for failing to provide what he perceives as an adequate response to the simmering violence in Jerusalem – “more construction and an iron fist.”
In an interview with Army Radio on Thursday, Bennett said the government’s leniency invited Wednesday’s “vehicular terrorist attack” in which a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem rammed his car into a light rail station packed with commuters, resulting in the death of a three-month-old infant girl and the injuring of nearly a dozen others.
“We need to understand that the attack is a direct consequence of the endless rock-throwing and firebombing against the residents, the light rail, and Jewish homes [in the capital],” the Bayit Yehudi chairman said. “Over 200 of these incidents took place in recent months, and they went without an appropriate response.”
Bennett told Army Radio that more housing for Jews in the predominantly Arab eastern half of the city as well as a more forceful response from police and security services is the formula for neutralizing the unrest.
“It’s quite acceptable to think that what motivates our enemies is despair,” he said. “On the contrary, they are driven by the hope and aspiration to evict us from here. And they think that if they commit more terrorist atrocities then we will throw our hands up in despair and flee.”
“What we need to do is to say, ‘We are staying here, we’re building in our capital,’ and I call on the prime minister to expedite the approval of construction permits,” Bennett said. “Without sovereignty, there can be no security. There’s no need to wait for a terrorist attack in order to put down the iron fist, and we have the means to do so.”
The minister repeated his contention that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “is a bitter enemy who incites to murder and the murder of babies.”
“He didn’t condemn the attack, and I assume that the family of the terrorist will receive generous incentives,” Bennett said.
In the wake of the attack, Netanyahu accused Abbas of encouraging violence against Jews in Jerusalem.
“This is how Abbas’s partners in government [Hamas] act. This is the same Abbas who, only a few days ago, incited toward a terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” he said.
Netanyahu ordered that security forces in Jerusalem be reinforced following the attack, consulting with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yoram Cohen.