Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon condemned on Sunday the brutal kidnapping-murder last week of Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir by suspected Jewish terrorists, saying the suspects would be treated as severely as Arab terrorists.
“I am embarrassed and horrified at the cruel murder of the young Muhammed Abu Khdeir,” Ya’alon said in a statement posted to his Facebook page on Sunday evening.
“These debased murderers don’t represent the Jewish people or its values, and they must be treated as terrorists,” the defense minister said. “We will not allow Jewish terrorists from our midst to disrupt the fabric of the many different communities in the state of Israel, and to harm innocents just because they are Arabs.”
“We must battle the perpetrators [of such actions], and those who deploy them, with an iron fist.”
His comments followed similar condemnations from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers and figures on the right wing, who have all come out strongly against the killing of Abu Khdeir, 16, thought to be in revenge for the slaying of three Israeli teens by Hamas-linked operatives last month.
“We will not allow extremists, it doesn’t matter from which side, to inflame the region and cause bloodshed,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. “Terror is terror… Murder is murder, incitement is incitement, and we will respond aggressively to both.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, from the nationalist Jewish Home party, called the killing “terrible, immoral and anti-Jewish,” and echoed Ya’alon’s demand that the killers be prosecuted as terrorists.
Education Minister Shay Piron, who is also a prominent national-religious rabbi, called the murder “an attack on the heart of Israeliness…the personification of evil and an attack on our very humanity.”
Piron urged that “the murderers’ fate be the fate of child murderers everywhere,” and vowed that the “education system will work to deepen the discourse of mutual respect and fight against incitement, hatred and racism.”
The head of the national-religious yeshiva in the settlement of Elon Moreh, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, told the Walla news site that the killers should be put to death under Jewish law.
“Jewish law doesn’t take pity, when you are talking about a cruel murder. Not if you are talking about the murder of Jewish youths, or the murder of an Arab youth,” he said.
Six people were arrested Sunday in connection with the killing. Though they have been identified as Jewish extremists, police officials said they were not linked to a specific group. A police official told the news site Buzzfeed that the six were known to police and were all fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, known for harboring extremist elements among its fan base.
MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), a former defense minister and one-time IDF chief of staff, also condemned the murder on Sunday, calling it “a terrible crime, a shame and a disgrace to Judaism and Jews.”
Jews “are taught to sanctify life, compassion and mercy. We are commanded to be a light onto the nations. The thought that an innocent youth was cruelly burned, while still alive, cleaves our hearts,” Mofaz said, also in a statement on his Facebook page.
“The State of Israel must bring justice to these murderers. And we, its citizens, must teach our children and grandchildren to be good human beings.”
President Shimon Peres said, “If a Jew kills they will be put to the court like any other criminal. There is no privilege, the law is equal to all and all are equal before the law. On that there is no compromise. We do not distinguish between blood and blood. The murder of a child is reprehensible, regardless of the religion or nationality of the child. It is our responsibility to secure life and to punish those who take it away from others.”
Peres repeated his call for an end to incitement and violence: “We must stop the incitement; it’s time to be respectful and to respect the law. It’s in our hands. We know where words can lead — to more sorrow, to more danger. It’s time for all of us to show restraint, to show understanding and let us as human beings, all of us, be true to our morality and to our hope of living together in peace.”
Several ministers condemned Abu Khdeir’s murder earlier in the day.
“This was a shocking and unacceptable act which any sane person, certainly in a strong and democratic country such as the State of Israel, must strongly condemn,” Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Sunday afternoon.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement Sunday that Israelis “must all feel ashamed over the facts being uncovered in the case of the murdered Arab youth. The state of Israel can’t continue with business as usual in the face of the horrifying murder of an innocent Arab youth by Jewish murderers. There is no difference between [Jewish] blood and [Arab] blood.”
Lapid called on law enforcement agencies to “deal decisively and aggressively with the murderers,” and on Israelis “to work to eradicate the extremism in our midst.”