Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to bring to justice the killer of an off-duty Israel Defense Forces soldier in the West Bank, as lawmakers pushed for a harsh response to the attack and some blamed the government’s “lax” approach to terror.
The body of the soldier — a student at a religious seminary in the Migdal Oz settlement — was discovered outside of a settlement in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank in the predawn hours of Thursday morning, prompting a massive manhunt.
Dvir Sorek, 19, had been missing since Wednesday evening. His body was found at approximately 3 a.m. along a road leading to Migdal Oz. He was not in uniform.
Authorities said they were treated the killing as a terror attack. No Palestinian terror group claimed immediate responsibility.
“This morning, we were informed of a serious stabbing attack,” Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said in a statement.
“The security forces are now engaged in a manhunt to catch the reprehensible terrorist and settle accounts. On behalf of myself and the government, I send condolences to the family.”
Only yesterday, forty US congressmen heard Abu Mazen lying again about his will for peace. And today, we wake up to the reality, a brutal murder. https://t.co/mAj1MSOgrI
— Evan Gary Cohen (@evangarycohen) August 8, 2019
The foreign press spokesperson for Netanyahu appeared to link the attack to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, tweeting: “Only yesterday, forty US congressmen heard Abu Mazen lying again about his will for peace. And today, we wake up to the reality, a brutal murder.”
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman and Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF chief of staff, attributed the stabbing to the government’s security policies.
“Capitulation to terrorism in Gaza leads to terror attacks in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [the West Bank],” said Liberman, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu party. “The defense establishment knows of dozens of attempts to carry out terror attacks, which are directed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”
The former defense minister, who quit Netanyahu’s coalition last November over its Gaza policy, berated the government for agreeing to de facto ceasefire agreements with the terrorist group in the coastal enclave.
“The term ‘agreement’ is a euphemism for capitulation to terrorism and the current policy of the government is a despicable attempt to buy quiet in the short term while sacrificing the long-term security of Israeli citizens,” said Liberman. “I am certain that the IDF will apprehend the terrorists behind the attack and bring them to justice.”
Israel has agreed over the last several years to several successive ceasefires to end rounds of heavy fighting with Gaza, but a long-term agreement, including the return of Israelis held by the terror group, remains elusive.
Ashkenazi said the killing, which came amid a period of relative calm in the West Bank and Gaza, was “additional evidence of the erosion of [Israel’s] deterrence.”
“We must put an end to the government’s lax approach to terrorism and restore the deterrence,” he said.
Several politicians on the right called for a forceful military response or additional settlement building in response to the killing.
“The pain is immense and I am sure the security forces will gets their hands on the heinous murderer. Our answer must be firm: Extending Israeli sovereignty over all settlements, and the Etzion Bloc first,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a former longtime resident of the Etzion Bloc.
The sentiment was echoed by the head of Eztion Regional Council, Shlomo Ne’eman. “To the government of Israel, we say again: End this war in victory. Destroy the imaginings of these evil people. Don’t leave them with any options. It’s the only way to be clear and leave no opening for their hopes. Israeli sovereignty in the Etzion Bloc in particular and Judea and Samaria in general is the only appropriate answer.”
The United Right party’s leader, Ayelet Shaked, said, “Israel must exact a heavy price and strengthen our deterrence in the face of Palestinian terrorism.”
President Reuven Rivlin expressed “heartache” over the soldier’s death.
“We will back the defense forces who are pursuing the killers and we won’t rest until we catch them. In the face of this awful terrorism, we will operate with an uncompromising, strong hand for the sake of the security of our citizens, wherever they may be,” said the president.
“Condolences to the parents of the soldier who was murdered tonight,” said Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff. “The IDF and security forces will know how to apprehend the heinous terrorists, dead or alive.”
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Education Minister Rafi Peretz expressed condolences to the family of the victim and said they were confident the killers would be caught.
“The heart aches over the youth who was taken in the prime of life,” said Peretz.
A ‘sensitive man with a heart of gold’
Sorek, a resident of Ofra, was remembered as a devoted and kind student by teachers, friends, relatives and neighbors.
“He was an amazing man, very sensitive, smart, modest, who fused wisdom and quiet… This is a man who at the beginning of the year saw an Arab walking here with a donkey that looked unwell, sick, so he offered to buy the donkey. He bought it, treated it, and sent it away,” Rabbi Sarel Rosenblatt, one of Sorek’s teachers, told Channel 12 news.
“I wanted him to be a man of standing in Israel, who would contribute a lot of his light to Israeli society, and his light was taken from us,” he added.
Arrangements for his funeral had not been announced as of Thursday morning.