Police said Tuesday they summoned Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel for questioning as part of a probe into alleged incitement to terror after the lawmaker explicitly backed extremist settlers who torched Palestinian homes and vehicles in the northern West Bank town of Huwara.
In a statement, police said they have opened an investigation into Fogel for the comments, and that he was summoned for questioning Tuesday by the serious crimes unit.
Last month, the coalition lawmaker, a former Israel Defense Forces brigadier general, gave his unambiguous backing to the rioters, who rampaged through the town hours after two Israeli brothers were killed in a terror attack there, saying: “A closed, burnt Huwara — that’s what I want to see.”
“That’s the only way to achieve deterrence. After a murder like yesterday’s, we need burning villages when the IDF doesn’t act,” Fogel told Galey Israel Radio.
Following the outrage over his comments, Fogel tweeted that his words had been “distorted,” without explaining how.
He has since then contended that the military should have acted, not private citizens, though he has not taken back his initial remarks.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and State Prosecutor Amit Aisman cleared police to launch the investigation of Fogel, who heads the Knesset’s National Security Committee.
At the time, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, chair of Otzma Yehudit, slammed the attorney general for allowing the police investigation, claiming there was “one law for the right and one law for the left — clear proof for the necessity of the [judicial] reform.”
Hours after a Palestinian shooting terror attack that killed brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, from the settlement of Har Bracha, hundreds of settlers ran riot through Huwara and other nearby towns.
The rioting left one Palestinian dead under unclear circumstances — 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash — and several others badly injured.
A top general labeled the events in Huwara a “pogrom” after the ultranationalist extremists set fire to a number of homes, some while the residents were inside.
Days after Fogel’s comments, far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich, one of the most senior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, said that Israel should “wipe out” Huwara as a matter of national policy.
Smotrich — who is the finance minister and also a minister in the Defense Ministry in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank — later attempted to walk back the comments as part of an apparent charm offensive ahead of his ongoing trip to the United States.
Eight Israeli suspects detained on the night of the rioting were released, three of them to house arrest, according to law enforcement officials. Another six were detained later by police, all of whom were ordered released, however, two, including a minor, were held under an administrative detention order
Emanuel Fabian and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.