Israel should think twice about freeing Palestinian prisoners in light of the killings of two IDF soldiers in the West Bank in the past two days, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday evening.
Bennett, who heads the right-wing Jewish Home coalition party, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that he reconsider the policy of releasing terrorists as part of a peace package.
“While the release of terrorists was a precondition for negotiations, unfortunately there is no doubt that developments since the beginning of the talks demand that the government rethink its position,” Bennett wrote.
Israel agreed to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to resume peace talks with the Palestinian Authority in late July. Twenty-six convicts were released in August at the start of talks, in the first of four scheduled phases.
Bennett’s letter came hours after an IDF soldier, Gal Gabriel Kobi, was shot in the neck by a Palestinian sniper near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The soldier died of his wounds after being rushed to a hospital in Jerusalem.
“The holiday of Sukkot [Tabernacles] has become the holiday of blood,” Bennett told the prime minister. “The response to terror must be war against murderers.”
On Friday, Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, was lured to a village near Qalqilya in the West Bank by 42-year-old Nidal Amar, who kidnapped and killed him, in the hopes of trading the corpse for his brother’s release from Israeli prison.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called Hazan’s murder a “painful reminder that Palestinian terrorism has not disappeared.”
Earlier on Sunday, MK Avigdor Liberman said the killing of Hazan, and a lack of condemnation from Ramallah, proved the Palestinians were not serious about peace.
MK Orit Strock (Jewish Home), who lives in Hebron not far from where Sunday’s shooting took place, told reporters that she and guests celebrating the Sukkot holiday at her home heard the gunfire, and rushed to the scene.
“Just as this terrorist wanted to eliminate Jewish presence from here,” Strock said, “it is clear to me that the Jewish people will choose to come here tomorrow and strengthen the Jewish community in Hebron.”
The shooting occured as hundreds of religious Jews were visiting the site, which is holy to Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.