Hadash-Ta’al MK Ofer Cassif said Monday that he did not consider the Palestinian gunman who killed Ronen Hanania in a shooting attack near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Araba on Saturday to be a terrorist.
In an interview with the Ynet news site, Cassif was asked if he considered settlers killed in West Bank attacks to be victims of terror, with Hanania given as an example.
Cassif, the alliance’s only Jewish MK, said he did not.
“Don’t portray him as a simple man,” he said of Hanania.
“Especially those that live as a thorn in the side [of the Palestinians], they can’t be considered innocent civilians,” Cassif said.
“Myself and my friends in Hadash have for years said that we support a nonviolent struggle, but that’s what happens in every place where there is occupation and repression — those who expect the occupied and repressed to just sit and do nothing are lying to themselves,” the lawmaker added.
Hanania and his son Daniel were shot Saturday evening while visiting a convenience store located between Kiryat Arba and the adjacent city of Hebron.
The attacker was identified as Muhammed Kamel al-Jabari, an apparent member of the Hamas terror group. After shooting Hanania and his son, Jabari opened fire on medics and settlement security guards who arrived at the scene to help the pair, seriously wounding a paramedic.
Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich said he was shocked to hear Cassif’s remarks.
“As far as he is concerned, it would be okay to murder my wife, my children and myself, as well as half a million settlers in Judea and Samaria,” Smotrich said, using the West Bank’s biblical name.
His political partner, Itamar Ben Gvir, added, “Cassif is the reason people should vote for the right. The bill aimed at deporting terror supporters that we intend to bring to the Knesset will apply to politicians like him who support terrorism.”
Cassif’s statements followed divisive comments by Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Sliman last week, when she referred to five slain members of a Palestinian terror group as “martyrs” and asserted that their “resistance” was a response to “the occupation.”
Posting on Facebook photos from a mass funeral in Nablus for five members of the Lion’s Den terrorist group who were killed in an overnight IDF raid in the city, the lawmaker wrote: “The more the occupation increases its crimes, the resistance escalates. An important lesson in the history of nations.”
Her comments drew intense political criticism.
Meanwhile, in another controversial statement ahead of the election, Shas leader Aryeh Deri claimed Monday that if slain former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had been alive today he would vote for the ultra-Orthodox party and not the Labor party he led, now headed by Merav Michaeli.
Deri took a dig at Michaeli, who in recent days has accused right-wing leaders in Israel of being complicit in the incitement that led up to Rabin’s assassination in 1995.
“I knew Rabin,” Deri told the Ynet news site. “Believe me, if he were alive he would vote for Shas, not Michaeli.”
Deri also vowed that his party will not break from its right-wing religious bloc to partner with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Michaeli responded to Deri by accusing him of “embracing” the far-right.