Education Minister Naftali Bennett continued his criticism of extremist elements in the religious Zionist public on Thursday, saying in an interview with Army Radio that protesters outside of his home called him a “traitor” for speaking out against violence.
“I tried talking to them and they called me ‘traitor,'” Bennett said of the encounter, which came after the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party leader broke his silence this week over criticism in the religious settler camp of the Shin Bet security service’s handling of an investigation into a suspected Jewish terror network.
Bennett has slammed critics as “hypocrites” and say they are supporting “terrorists” who aim to “dismantle the foundations of the state.”
“As part of my position as education minister, I reach out my hand to pull out these confused youth from the trap into which they have been led,” he said. “But of course, whoever is involved in murder — it’s not a matter of education anymore but rather a matter of terror, and [they must be dealt with] with the firmest hand.”
Referring to the fatal firebombing in the home of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma in July by suspected Jewish terrorists, Bennett drew a distinction between the ideology of the suspected perpetrators and that of the religious Zionist movement as a whole.
“The vision of the murderers in Duma is the opposite view from that of religious Zionism,” Bennett declared.
Only one member of the Dawabsha family — son Ahmed, 5 — survived the attack on their home, and remains hospitalized in Israel. The 18-month-old baby Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Sa’ad succumbed to their injuries in the succeeding weeks.
Earlier Thursday, police announced that they had started a probe into a wedding video showing extremist revelers with knives and firebombs celebrating the Dawabsha family’s killing.
The video was condemned across the political spectrum.