Netanyahu Vows to Bolster West Bank Settlements in Response to Latest Terror Attacks

Netanyahu's remarks come after pressure by ministers. In inner cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Lieberman barred army officers from answering Minister Bennett's questions.

Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting, June, 2016.
Mark Israel Salem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that, in wake of the recent attacks, the government will allocate additional aid to fortify the settlements in the West Bank.

"We will make a special effort to strengthen the communities and will propose a special plan for Kiryat Arba at the next cabinet meeting," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, adding, that he has instructed all government ministries to do their part to help West Bank settlements.

Haaretz has learned that Netanyahu's remarks on Sunday morning came after some of the ministers pressured Netanyahu during Saturday's emergency security cabinet meeting. The ministers called for a massive round of construction in the settlements in response to recent terror attacks. Netanyahu promised them that he will examine the issue. Just two weeks ago, the cabinet approved a special allocation of 82 million shekels ($21.3 million) to West Bank settlements, citing security concerns.

On Friday, following the Thursday attack in Kiryat Arba, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the reopening of a tender to build 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba. The tender was published some 18 months ago, but was suspended when no bids were received. Ahead of the security cabinet meeting on Saturday, figures close to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and other members of his Habayit Hayehudi party derided the measure as "recycling an old decision from a year and a half ago."

During Saturday's security cabinet meeting, Lieberman and Bennett clashed verbally. At one point, after Bennett asked for details from army officers attending the meeting, Lieberman ordered the officers not to reply and to move to the next item on the agenda. Senior officials privy to the meeting said Netanyahu sided with Lieberman. The confrontation between Lieberman and Bennet was first reported by Israel's Channel 2.

Lieberman took aim at Bennett several times during the cabinet meeting, accusing him of leaking information. It was the fourth cabinet meeting under the current government that he was attending, he said, and each time the contents of the meeting had been leaked.

He took great exception to Bennett's remarks to the media on Friday, two days before the cabinet meeting, in which he outlined the operational plan he intended proposing in the wake of the recent terror attacks.

"I don't remember anyone in government proposing a plan for mathematical studies before it had been announced by the Education Ministry," Lieberman said.

Several cabinet members, including Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, joined Lieberman's criticism of Bennett.

"There are government ministers who create an atmosphere of crisis" without any real need, Galant said.

Netanyahu remarked that "the cabinet has become as leaky as the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. If it continues, I will hold our discussions in a smaller forum."

The inner cabinet meeting concluded after 2 A.M., some four and a half hours after it began. Senior officials in Jerusalem said that the ministers decided that steps will be taken to block allowances paid to the families of assailants by the Palestinian Authority, staring with the family of the assailant in Thursday's attack in Kiryat Arba. It was also decided to immediately investigate relatives of Palestinian attackers who express support for their actions. The ministers on the panel also resolved to accelerate the demolition of hundreds of buildings erected without permits by Palestinians in parts of the West Bank classified as Area C, which are under complete Israeli control, starting with the Southern Hebron Hills, where the Kiryat Arba assailant resided.

"We are in a protracted fight against terrorism," Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday. "This struggle has ups and downs. We are using various means, including aggressive measures that we have not used in the past. This includes cordoning off the entire Hebron district, 700,000 people; revoking work permits from Bani Naim, the village six terrorists have had come from; a massive reinforcement of two battalion, with emphasis on securing the roads; automatically investigating all family members of murderers and terrorists and their arrest as per their involvement.... We are giving full backing to the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the security services," Netanyahu said.