Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday voiced support for legalizing a wildcat outpost in the northern West Bank, after an Israeli man who studied there was shot dead in a terror attack.
Yehuda Dimentman, 25, was killed and two others wounded earlier this month when Palestinian terrorists opened fire at a car of students from the illegally-built yeshiva in Homesh, which the military has allowed to operate on a near-daily basis for over 15 years. Security forces later arrested several suspects over the shooting who are believed to members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“A Jew was recently murdered on the way to Homesh by Islamic Jihad and in my opinion we must not go and clear the yeshiva at the moment,” Sa’ar told the Ynet news site.
“There is an extremist terror organization that committed a murder and if the yeshiva is evacuated, it could be interpreted as an ‘achievement’ for the same terror organization,” added Sa’ar, who heads the right-wing New Hope party.
Asked if he supported legalizing the outpost, he answered: “I’m in favor.”
He also said, “no damage is caused by studying Torah there.”
Sa’ar’s remarks came amid rising tensions in the area around Homesh, where on Saturday Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops, and right-wing nationalists attempted to march to the outpost.
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that it had declared the route leading to Homesh a closed military zone, and that its policy regarding the outpost had not changed.
As part of an apparent effort to diminish tensions, security forces on Friday were dispatched to the outpost and began taking down at least six makeshift buildings, including one used by the yeshiva’s students for lodging and another two by families who recently moved to the hilltop in a move of solidarity also meant to expand Jewish presence in the area.
Settler leaders blasted the demolitions, calling them a “prize for terror,” and arguing that the response to the shooting should be to legalize the outpost at Homesh, which was once a fully-fledged settlement before it was evacuated in 2005 alongside the evacuation of Gaza settlements.
Border Police did not raze all of the buildings at the outpost, and the building used as the yeshiva remained standing, amid concerns regarding the response such a demolition might draw from local settlers so soon after the terror shooting.
Thousands of far-right, nationalist religious Israelis descended on Homesh last week in a solidarity march with Dimentman’s wife and father as they completed the traditional mourning period for him.