Netanyahu, Lapid back security forces: ‘We won’t allow violence, terror threats’

Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid, who currently holds the mandate to form a new government, expressed support for Israeli security forces on Saturday, a day after some of the worst violence Jerusalem has seen in years, and as tensions also rose with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In a tweet, Lapid also wished the 17 officers who were injured in the clashes a speedy recovery.

“The State of Israel won’t allow violence to rage within it and definitely won’t let terror organizations threaten it. Whoever wants to harm us needs to know he will pay a very heavy price,” Lapid said.

He added: “This is the time for responsibility from all sides, particularly from public officials.”

Israeli riot police clash with Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem Old City on May 7, 2021.(Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Lapid did not specify any officials by name.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Saturday with top security officials to assess the situation; the IDF and police decided to boost their deployments ahead of further feared violence.

“We are acting responsibly to ensure law and order in Jerusalem while maintaining freedom of worship at the holy sites,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Yesh Atid party chair Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, May 6, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir on Thursday night set up a “parliamentary office” in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, as clashes raged there between right-wing Jewish nationalists, police and Palestinians. Ben Gvir reportedly agreed to leave after being warned by Netanyahu’s office that his continued presence there could prompt Palestinian terrorists in Gaza to fire rockets at Jerusalem.

Lawmakers from the predominantly Arab Joint List Party and left-wing Meretz have protested in the neighborhood — including on Friday — against the pending evictions of several Palestinian families, whose homes are claimed by right-wing Jews as part of a long-running legal battle.

Joint List chief Ayman Odeh on Friday accused Ben Gvir and Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Aryeh King of “fanning the violence and encouraging repression,” and shared a video of the two in Sheikh Jarrah of Thursday, in which the deputy mayor told a Palestinian man “it was too bad” he had not been shot in the forehead.

Odeh said he would file a complaint against King and ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to launch an investigation.

The Joint List leader also shared a video on Twitter from clashes Friday in the Old City, in which a police officer threw a stun grenade toward a crowd that included some women and children.

“This is what the last Friday of Raman looks like under occupation,” he wrote on Twitter.

Also denouncing the Israeli response to Friday’s rioting on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in Jerusalem was Ra’am leader Mansour Abbbas, whose Islamist party has been courted by both Netanyahu and the premier’s political rivals in their respective bids to form a government.

In a statement, Abbas called any harm to the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa Mosque or worshippers there a “red line.” He said Ra’am would use its position in the Knesset to prevent the site’s “sanctity” from being violated and to ensure Muslims’ “exclusive right” to the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.

He voiced support for Jordanian custodianship over the Temple Mount and called on Israel to respect it, while also expressing backing for Sheikh Jarrah residents.

Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas speaks during a press conference in Nazareth, April 1, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz of Blue and White, who met Friday with Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett for talks on forming a unity government, met with top security officials at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, as the Israel Defense Forces and police moved to bolster troops levels.

“Extremists on both sides cannot be allowed to cause an escalation of the situation,” Gantz said in a statement. “Israel will continue to act to preserve freedom of worship at the Temple Mount and at the same time not allow terror to raise its head or harm public order.”

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