Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch instructed police on Sunday to investigate public placards expressing satisfaction and even joy at the death of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Such notices were reportedly posted in several yeshivas following Sharon’s death on Saturday. One message plastered on a bulletin board at the Torat HaChaim yeshiva in the religious community of Yad Binyamin in central Israel read: “A hearty mazal tov to Ariel Sharon upon his demise.”
Torat HaChaim was located in the Gaza Strip settlement of Neve Dekalim before its evacuation in 2005.
“This conduct is contemptible and I will not stand for it,” Aharonovitch said in a statement. “I view such criminal actions very severely and I have asked police officials to handle the issue swiftly and professionally.”
Police said they would set up a joint team alongside representatives from the State Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office to review such cases and to decide upon further legal action where appropriate.
Israeli law guarantees freedom of speech, aside from cases of incitement to violence, and it was unclear what would be the legal underpinning of such an investigation.
Sharon’s controversial persona and policies gained him enemies on both sides of the political map throughout his life. Despite being a darling of the right for many decades — as a decorated war general and a champion of Israeli settlements — his apparent ideological about-face during his final years in politics, marked by his decision to evacuate all Gaza Strip settlements as well as several in the West Bank, left a bitter taste in the mouths of former political allies.
On Saturday MK Orit Strock of the nationalist-Orthodox Jewish Home Party said God should be praised for removing Sharon from office before he could uproot more West Bank settlements as he had uprooted the ones in Gaza.
“The truth needs to be said,” Strock wrote on her Facebook wall. “Sharon was one of the great builders of the land of Israel and one of its great destroyers. [It was] he who knew how to defeat terror and who turned all of southern Israel terror-stricken,” she said, referring to rocket-fire from the Gaza Strip which has plagued the south since the 2005 Disengagement.
“His great determination and ability to decide and act enabled him to reach impressive achievements, and also disastrous developments,” she added.
Strock’s statements provoked a backlash, and she later issued a clarification: “Unfortunately my words were misunderstood and I want to clarify: I didn’t pray for the death of Sharon, I didn’t ask for him to get sick, I didn’t hope his premiership would end that way and I have no happiness for the way his life ended.”
Despite that, she insisted his illness “saved the State of Israel from horrible decline.”