‘Maybe it’s time to replace [Netanyahu],’ said Betzalel Smotrich, slamming the prime minister for his response to Arab rioting and rockets from Gaza.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
On Saturday night, MK Betzalel Smotrich became the first of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc to question the Israeli premier’s fitness to continue leading the country.
“Tell me, after the Arab enemy’s countless terror attacks … in the last few days and after a barrage of [rockets] from Gaza at the communities in the South, Netanyahu really called tonight for ‘calming down on both sides?’ Maybe it’s time to replace him,” the head of the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) tweeted, along with a video clip of Arab youth beating a Jew in Jerusalem.
The post came after nearly 40 rockets were launched at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip Friday and Saturday night, continued violent Arab rioting in Jerusalem, and the emergence of Arab solidarity protests against Israel in other parts of the country and Gaza over the weekend.
Likud coalition chairman Miki Zohar responded by calling Smotrich “ungrateful” after “[only] passing the electoral threshold because the Likud gave you three seats,” adding “a little modesty wouldn’t hurt.”
Denying the political “contribution” from Likud, Smotrich said, “Bibi didn’t do me any personal favors and the whole way I emphasized that I’m not obligated to him personally but to my values of the right and of religious Zionism.”
He blasted Netanyahu for his “silence” when “for two weeks the country is burning and Jews are being attacked and are afraid to walk around.”
He added, “And when he finally convenes a discussion he expresses himself as if he’s from the UN and calls for calming both sides,” saying he cannot accept the “artificial comparison” between “attacker and victim.”
“Netanyahu must lead a firm and uncompromising line that will restore security to the citizens of Israel immediately,” he concluded.
Since the Muslim month of Ramadan began on April 12, young Arab men have instigated clashes in the capital, especially near the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City. There have been almost nightly riots with hundreds of protestors attacking police with rocks, fireworks and flares.
Attackers have thrown projectiles at buses and attacked random Jewish passersby with sticks, rocks and fists. They have also fought with Jewish youth in downtown Jerusalem, with one Jewish teen stabbed on Wednesday.
On Thursday, members of the right-wing Jewish organization Lehava staged a rally near Damascus Gate.
Arabs in other parts of the country demonstrated in solidarity over the weekend, with hundreds in Jaffa chanting, “in spirit and blood we shall redeem al-Aqsa [Mosque on the Temple Mount].”
Palestinians also marched on checkpoints near Jerusalem, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, and setting fire to tires.
Smotrich also took the police to task in the same series of posts for their reactions to the violence, tweeting an official form that said in the “Summary of Findings” on the evening’s events, “The Israel Police does not have evidence in hand showing that the damage was caused as a result of a terror attack against Israel.”
Calling this reaction “consciousness engineering,” he blasted the police for being “unwilling to confirm that the Arab enemy riots in Jerusalem tonight are terrorist actions. That way they can continue to bury their heads in the sand like an ostrich and claim that it’s all just a romantic quarrel and doesn’t have to really be taken seriously and eradicated.”
The reaction of Smotrich’s party to events since the Likud leader was given the mandate to form a coalition almost three weeks ago seems to indicate that support for Netanyahu is waning among right-wing religious Zionists.
Smotrich has said that a fifth round of elections or a left-wing government is preferable to a Netanyahu-led minority government supported on the outside by the Islamic Ra’am party, which Smotrich refers to as “terror-supporters who deny our existence and back rioters.”