Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday he was considering demolishing the homes of Arab-Israeli terrorists in the wake of a deadly attack at the Temple Mount carried out by three residents of the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.
Speaking with the Ynet news site, Erdan said that the decision to demolish homes is based on whether the terror “phenomenon” plays a central role in the community in question.
“This is why the High Court of Justice decided against demolishing homes of Jewish terrorists, as this (terrorism) is not a phenomenon that receives broad public support,” he said, referring to a recent decision regarding Jewish terrorists who burned a Palestinian youth to death.
The minister then warned that “as we see more calls of support for these (Arab Israeli) terrorists, and as the likelihood that others will follow their example increases, we will have to consider the demolition of their homes as well.”
Friday’s attack, carried out by Arab Israelis Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19, and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19, took the lives of officers Haiel Sitawe, 30, and Kamil Shnaan, 22, who were guarding the compound at the time. The victims hailed from Druze towns in northern Israel.
Earlier this month, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition that sought the demolition of the homes of the Jewish killers of East Jerusalem teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered in a grisly 2014 revenge attack.
Israel employs the controversial measure of home demolitions against the families of Palestinian terrorists, with some security agencies arguing it serves as a deterrent for further terror attacks. Critics charge that the practice unjustly punishes whole families for crimes committed by individuals.
In its ruling, the High Court affirmed that the anti-terror regulation that allows for home demolitions “applies equally to Arab terrorists and to Jewish terrorists, each case according to its circumstances.”
But it noted that the practice is only justified for its possible deterrent power, and so must be carried out in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack and have a reasonable chance of deterring future attacks. Given the long delay between the attack and the filing of the appeal for demolition, the specific appeal in this case was rejected.
Erdan told Ynet that he believes the majority of Israel’s Arab citizens are law-abiding and prefers an active police presence in their communities. “At the same time, there are extremist, violent, inciting elements in their society… and we’re doing everything we can to outlaw them,” he explained.
Erdan went on to criticize the failure of Arab lawmakers to immediately condemn the attack. “I did not hear their condemnations; certainly not on Friday. Maybe today, due to the heavy pressure that was applied.”
Joint (Arab) List chairman MK Ayman Odeh issued what some called a lukewarm condemnation of the terror attack on Friday. “The struggle of Arab citizens is a political struggle and is by no means an armed struggle,” Odeh told Radio A-Shams, an Israeli Arabic-language station. “We wholly oppose any use of firearms by our youths,” Odeh said, according to a translation published by the Walla news website.
Odeh then accused Israel’s prime minister of transforming the conflict into a religious one, however, and demanded the reopening of the Temple Mount, which was temporarily closed after the attack.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, he is the one who wants to turn the conflict from a political conflict to a religious one, and this is why he sponsors provocative entries by settlers to the compound of the [Al Aqsa] mosque,” Odeh claimed. “The government must respect the holiness of the Aqsa Mosque and enable the continuation of prayers on the site.”
Responding to Erdan’s comments, Meretz MK Issawi Frej said in a Sunday statement, “There are those who are hurting from the events of last Friday, and there are others like Minister Gilad Erdan who are exploiting them to instigate more incitement and hatred.”
“Where were these threats when Israelis burned to death a Palestinian boy, or when an Israeli soldier murdered in cold blood Muslim and Christian Israeli citizens in Shfaram. We do not fight hatred through discrimination,” Frej continued, referencing the Abu Khdeir murder as well as the 2005 killing of four Arab Israelis after AWOL IDF soldier Eden Natan Zada opened fire on a public bus traveling through Shfaram.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.