President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vehemently condemned Wednesday the recent riots staged by right-wing activists in protest of the expected evacuation of the disputed house in Hebron.
"The events in Hebron are causing Israel great damage," Peres said during a memorial ceremony for Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion at Kibbutz Sde Boker.
"He who hurls a stone at an IDF soldier - it is a though he threw a stone at the State of Israel and hurt its head and heart," he said. "We cannot allow this to continue; it has to be stopped now."
During his speech, delivered at the gravesites of Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula, Peres said "from the first day of the country's inception Ben-Gurion spoke out against extremist groups trying to take the law into their hands and confront the law enforcement agencies – protectors of the land," the president said.
Olmert told those on hand that "there are some phenomena that we mustn't accept and that the government that I head cannot accept. The debate over the Land of Israel is a legitimate one, and the desire to leave a mark of Jewish presence in one of our holiest cities (Hebron) is understandable, but this desire cannot override the High Court's ruling.
"I love Jewish Hebron and respect its inhabitants, but once the court ruled that one of its houses will be evacuated – then that is what will happen," he said, "I won’t let anyone threaten Israeli democracy.
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu also supported the security forces' efforts to maintain order in the West Bank city. "We must act with an iron fist against the outlaws," he told a press conference.
A tense calm prevailed in Hebron on Wednesday morning, but overnight police apprehended three right-wing activists suspected of hurling stones at a Border Guard patrol in the city's Jabel Johar neighborhood. There were no reports of injuries.