Israel won’t stop demolishing homes of accused terrorists to appease Washington, a minister said Saturday, as the father of a terror victim expressed “shock” at the recent US criticism of the razing of his son’s killer’s home.
“We are doing what’s good for the State of Israel,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel of the New Hope party told the Kan public broadcaster.
The administration of US President Joe Biden last week leveled rare criticism at Israel for the razing of the home of a Palestinian-American suspected in a deadly West Bank shooting attack in May, marking a likely point of friction amid efforts between Washington and Jerusalem to rehabilitate ties.
Following Israel’s punitive demolition of Muntasir Shalabi’s home on Thursday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, had raised concerns over the matter with their Israeli counterparts.
“We attach a good deal of priority to this, knowing that the home of an entire family shouldn’t be demolished for the action of one individual,” Price said.
Home demolitions are a controversial punitive measure that the Israeli security establishment maintains can deter future terror attacks. The demolition came despite a number of legal challenges against the decision.
Shalabi is accused of killing Israeli student Yehuda Guetta and injuring two others in a shooting attack.
“The new government’s policy is clear regarding violations of sovereignty and treatment of terrorism,” Hendel said on Sunday.
But he added the disagreement wasn’t causing a rift between the countries.
“Sometimes we will disagree with the American administration, but on most issues, we will be on the same page,” he said. “What I am hearing is that the American administration wants to cooperate with the new government in Israel.”
Meanwhile, Guetta’s family has slammed the Biden administration over its statement, and said it would file lawsuits in Israel and in the US demanding that Shalabi’s assets be seized, including the land where his home had stood.
“This will be an unprecedented process that will teach terrorists and their handlers that there is no corner of the world where we won’t reach them, and that terror victims will continue pursuing them forever,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat HaDin legal aid group, representing the family.
“Any terrorist should know that there is a high cost to murdering a Jew,” she added. “That even if they don’t care about their life, we will take control of something more important to them.”
Guetta’s father, Elisha, said the family was “shocked that the US is condemning the demolition of [the home of] my son’s murderer and is supporting a terrorist who arrived from the US to carry out a vicious shooting terror attack against innocent Jewish students.
“It would be expected that the US, which has often been the victim of terrorism, would stand with terror victims rather than with their murderers,” he added.
Explaining the lawsuit, Elisha Guetta added: “The Americans’ approach forces us to search for every way to prevent the next murder. And if that is done by seizing his land, that’s what we’ll do.”
The lawsuit will also be filed by the family of Benaya Peretz, who was seriously injured in the same attack.
The plaintiffs intend to gather information about Shalabi’s assets in the US and the West Bank to include them in the lawsuit. Shalabi and his family hold US citizenship.