Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized on Sunday the Umm al-Fahm demonstration in which hundreds of locals protested the actions of the IDF in Operation Brother's Keeper over the last two weeks.
In his remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu stated that those behind the “infuriating calls and support for abducting IDF soldiers” belong to the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, and asked to consider that the movement be declared illegal.
“Most Israeli Arabs do not take this view and I call on their leaders to be courageous and strongly condemn such calls,” Netanyahu said.
“As Israelis we cannot countenance such outrageous remarks that call for abducting Israeli soldiers. In many cases, those behind such calls and demonstrations are from the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. It constantly preaches against the State of Israel and its people publicly identify with terrorist organizations such as Hamas.”
Netanyahu added that he asked to consider declaring the northern branch an illegal organization, and said that such a classification would “give the security authorities significant tools in the struggle against this movement.”
Earlier Sunday, Minister Yisrael Katz also called to outlaw the movement. Speaking at a meeting of Likud ministers, Katz said that the move “would be the most necessary action following the demonstration.”
Netanyahu also addressed the escalating security situation in Israel’s southern front and the ongoing search efforts for Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, who were kidnapped two weeks ago in Gush Etzion.
Over the weekend, the IDF attacked multiple targets in response to firing at Israel from the Gaza Strip. We are ready to expand this operation as per need.”
Netanyahu added his wish to reiterate that “from the moment the Palestinian unity government was established with the Hamas terrorist organization, the Palestinian Authority became responsible for preventing firing at our territory from the Gaza Strip.”
“Immediately after the abduction, we said that Hamas was responsible. I think that it is now clear to everyone what we based ourselves on.
"Abu Mazen (President Mahmoud Abbas) says that he opposes abductions; he says that he wants to proceed on the path to peace. If he stands by what he says, there is only one way to advance peace – and that is to tear up his agreement with Hamas."
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) responded to Netanyahu’s comments: “The remarks made by the prime minister regarding his intention to outlaw the northern branch of Islamic Movement are a cynical exploitation of the kidnapping crisis, in order to jump-start contingency plans regarding the Islamic movement.
"Had political organizations been outlawed for every uttered sentence, there wouldn’t be any legal political parties in Israel, including in the coalition, in which one of its leaders said for example – ‘I’ve killed many Arabs in my life, and there's no problem with that.’ We will not agree that the Islamic movement be declared illegal.”