Ben Gvir says he 'doesn’t intend to apologize' over decision

Arab MK accuses Ben Gvir of discrimination over ban on visiting Palestinian detainees

After Jewish lawmakers visit settler suspected of killing Palestinian during clash, Ahmad Tibi asks to meet Palestinians arrested in the case; far-right minister rejects request

MK Ahmad Tibi speaks in the Knesset plenum on November 6, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
MK Ahmad Tibi speaks in the Knesset plenum on November 6, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir denied a request by a leading Arab lawmaker on Wednesday for permission to visit Palestinians arrested over a clash with Israeli settlers in the West Bank that ended with a Palestinian shot dead late last week.

The Hadash-Ta’al party’s No. 2 Ahmad Tibi sought to visit the Palestinians after two coalition MKs were given permission by police earlier this week to visit the settler who fired the fatal shots. Yehiel Indore, who is hospitalized with serious injuries sustained during the clash, is suspected of murder in the case, and is under arrest.

But Ben Gvir turned down Tibi’s request and said that he would not be allowed to see the Palestinian suspects.

Ben Gvir, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party and whose ministry oversees police, tweeted that he “doesn’t intend to apologize” for the seeming disparity.

Tibi “can’t visit rioters in the middle of an investigation,” he wrote, adding that he gives his “full backing” to a police decision denying access to suspects in the case.

Ben Gvir also posted the letter he sent to Tibi the day before denying him permission to visit the Palestinian suspects, in which he explained that “all requests by Knesset members and ministers to the chief of police need to be done via my office, in accordance with the procedures of the National Security Ministry.”

He said that police had examined the matter and, in the opinion of the investigating officer, “it is not possible to permit meetings with any of those arrested.”

Ben Gvir had previously said Indore should be “given a medal” for shooting the Palestinian.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir seen during a meeting with police officers from the Yasam riot control unit, in Tel Aviv on August 2, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Indore is believed to be the person who shot dead 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan last Friday during a clash between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the northern West Bank, just outside the town of Burqa. Another settler, Elisha Yered, is suspected of involvement in the shooting and obstructing the investigation by taking the pistol home with him.

Five Palestinians were also arrested over the incident. One of them, a minor, was released on Tuesday.

Indore remains under police guard in a Jerusalem hospital, where he is being treated for a serious head injury he sustained when a Palestinian threw a rock at him.

On Sunday, police permitted MK Tally Gotliv, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and MK Zvi Sukkot of the far-right Religious Zionism party to meet with Indore at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Due to his medical condition, Indore has reportedly not yet been questioned by police. However, it is not clear who signed off on the visit, and Ben Gvir has denied that he gave the permission, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Following their visit, Tibi sent a letter to Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai asking for access to the Palestinians, pointing out that “on the face of it, in the current Knesset there is a rank of two types of MKs: Jews and Arabs” and vowing to highlight the alleged discrimination to the international community.

According to the Kan report, Tibi also asked Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana to intervene in the matter.

Tibi accused the government of brazen discrimination on Wednesday.

“There are two kinds of members of Knesset — Jews with parliamentary immunity and rights, and Arab Knesset members without them. This is further proof that we have a chief of police who is utterly subservient to a racist minister,” he told Ynet on Wednesday.

Tibi also criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has recently given a round of interviews with US media in which he has sought to assuage concerns about the direction taken by his coalition.

“It doesn’t matter how many local stations in America Bibi gives interviews to,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “Do you really think that people around the world will keep buying the story that Israel is still a democracy for much longer?”

Knesset Legal Adviser Sagit Afik attends a meeting of the Constitution Committee at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 5, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the wake of the coalition lawmakers’ visits to Indore, Knesset legal adviser Attorney Sagit Afik asked the legal adviser to the National Security Ministry to check how and on what basis the MKs were given permission to see Indore.

Afik noted in a letter to the adviser that in a conversation with Ben Gvir last week, she told the minister that “there can be no selective behavior that creates a distinction between MKs.”

Afik reached out at the request of Tibi, who has yet to receive a response to a separate request made over two months ago to visit Arab Israeli terror convict Walid Daqqa, who is on hunger strike.

Meanwhile, Ben Gvir on Wednesday asked Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to investigate Tibi over remarks the lawmaker made in a speech earlier in the week at the Arab American University in Jenin which, according to the minister, amounted to incitement to terror and sedition, the Walla outlet reported.

Citing a letter sent to the attorney general, the report said Ben Gvir claimed Tibi expressed support for terrorists in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, by speaking of “the ongoing battle for the sake of freedom” and saying “all the Palestinians, when they excel, oppose and fight, each in their own way [against Israel’s control of the West Bank]. They will lead this nation to freedom.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference at Haifa University, December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/ Flash90)

“In his speech, MK Tibi incites against the State of Israel and undermines its sovereignty and existence as a state,” Ben Gvir wrote to Baharav-Miara. “His venomous words about the ‘ongoing battle for freedom’… cannot be mistaken.” He also pointed to Tibi’s alleged remarks calling IDF military operation in Jenin an “onslaught” of the “occupation” which must be “uprooted.”

Israel has carried out a number of military incursions into Jenin and its adjoining refugee camp saying the area has become a hotbed of terrorist activity.

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