Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged anew to rein in a wave of attacks on Palestinian and Israeli property by disgruntled Jewish settlers, his office said.
Speaking at a candle-lighting ceremony to start the eight-day Jewish festival of Hannukah, also known as the Festival of Lights,Netanyahu told soldiers at a West Bank army base that his government would “not accept attacks on soldiers, police, on Arabs, Jews, on mosques.”
He was speaking at the Ephraim base in the northern West Bank, where a group of about 50 extremist settlers broke in last week, damaged vehicles and attacked a senior officer.
“Even the smallest stain will soil the whitest shirt,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying. “We have here a stain on Israel’s democracy, which is based on the rule of law.”
Defence Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at the same ceremony, said “99 percent of settlers obey the law, and we must protect them as well as the Palestinians under our control.”
He also told reporters he considered the attack on the Ephraim base to be “terrorism … it is our duty to do everything possible to bring an end to such attacks.”
On Monday attackers sprayed a West Bank mosque with anti-Islamic and pro-settler graffiti in an assault that bore the hallmarks of another raid by the extremists, the seventh such incident in as many days.
The Palestinian cabinet on Tuesday condemned what it called “Israeli government’s silence” on the attacks and called on the international community to pressure the Jewish state “to end settler terrorism.”
Ultra-nationalist Jews are fighting government plans to dismantle wildcat settlement outposts by vandalising mainly Palestinian property, although they have recently struck at Israeli army bases and the homes and offices of leftwing Israelis.
It was the third mosque attack since Wednesday, one of which coincided with the demolition by troops of the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost.
Last week, Netanyahu ordered tougher measures against Jewish “rioters” after a surge in settler violence, in particular the attack on the Ephraim base.