JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to make it easier for Israelis to get firearms amid escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, a move seen as “collective punishment” and one that could further increase the violence.
Netanyahu announced the measure late on Saturday after convening a meeting of his security cabinet filled with hardline politicians over a pair of shootings that included an attack in occupied East Jerusalem.
Seven people were killed in the shooting outside the East Jerusalem synagogue on Friday.
The weekend shootings took place towards the end of a month of growing confrontation and follow an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin that killed nine Palestinians and exchanges of fire between Israel and Gaza.
In all, Israeli forces have killed 32 Palestinians this month.
Israel had not carried out a raid on the scale of its operation in Jenin in years, but it is part of intensified military incursions by the Israeli army into the occupied West Bank, which killed at least 200 Palestinians in the past year.
On Saturday, Netanyahu promised to expedite gun permits for Israeli citizens and to step up efforts to collect “illegal weapons”. He added that the homes of the suspected assailants would also be sealed immediately ahead of demolition “in order to exact an additional price from those who support terrorism”.
His office later said social security benefits for the families of attackers will also be cancelled.
In addition, it promised new steps to “strengthen” illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank but gave no details.
‘Breach of human rights’
A media outlet Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said Netanyahu’s plans to approve more gun permits for Israeli citizens come as Israeli police were also encouraging those with existing licenses to carry their guns.
“While Netanyahu is urging Israelis not to take the law into their own hands, he’s also putting more weapons into those very same hands,” said Bays, who went on to describe the measures against the Palestinian families as “collective punishment” and “a clear breach of human rights”.
Senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, said arming civilians in Israel could further escalate violence.
“They are trying to further arm already armed people in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Bishara said.
“More violence and more suffering will only play to the hands of the most extreme of the extremes (groups) in Israel and potentially in Palestine.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli military said an additional battalion had been sent to the occupied West Bank for reinforcement.
Analysts in Israel said Netanyahu was under pressure from hardliners in his cabinet, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
The government in Israel is the most right-wing in Israeli history.
Ben-Gvir, who had pushed for more gun permits, said on Saturday that he would also push for the death penalty against “terrorists”.
“Itamar Ben-Gvir has a reputation of being a fireman and now Netanyahu is giving him a full container of oil,” said Akiva Eldar, a contributor to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. (Int’l News Desk)