Liberman cancels meeting with bereaved families, blaming leak

Liberman cancels meeting with bereaved families, blaming leak

Minister says dialogue can’t take place after publication of recording of Barkan terror attack victim’s father challenging a defense official

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on October 30, 2018. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on October 30, 2018. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman canceled a meeting he was scheduled to have Wednesday with the families of two people killed in the Barkan Industrial Park terror attack last month.

In a letter to the relatives of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi updating them on his decision, Liberman explained that it was not possible to have “open dialogue” after a phone call between a Defense Ministry representative and Levengrond’s father, Rafi, was leaked to the press.

In the recording — aired Monday by Hadashot TV news — Levengrond can be heard scoffing at the defense official’s update that the IDF will be demolishing the basement and ground floors of Ashraf Na’alowa’s home.

“So, in short, you are doing nothing,” Rafi Levengrond could be heard saying in the recording. “Listen, they destroyed my family, why are you taking his into consideration?… As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to demolish a corner of the house, don’t destroy it at all, leave it standing.

(From L-R) Likud MK Oren Hazan, Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, and relatives of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi, who were killed in a terror attack at the Barkan Industrial Zone march in their memory to the site of the attack on November 6, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)

The defense official could be heard telling Levengrond that there are “legal impediments” to the IDF demolishing the entire Na’alowa home.

The 23-year-old from the northern West Bank village of Shuweika has remained at large since the October 7 attack, during which he shot dead his coworkers at the Alon Group factory, Levengrond and Hajbi, and wounded a third Israeli, Sara Vaturi.

In his letter Wednesday to the victims’ families, Liberman said he had wanted to meet with them, listen to their concerns and update them on the military’s hunt for the attacker.

“I invited senior representatives from the IDF and the Shin Bet to meet with you in order to present to you in an in-depth and direct manner the efforts of the defense establishment to capture the terrorist and destroy his home,” he said.

“Unfortunately, when a conversation with an IDF officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, who called you on my instructions, is recorded and leaked to the media, with all my sorrow and sympathy [for your situation], it is impossible to hold open dialogue. Therefore, the meeting scheduled for today will not take place,” Liberman added.

Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29 (left), and Ziv Hajbi, 35, who were killed in a terror shooting in the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, October 7, 2018 (screenshots: Facebook)

A representative from the defense ministry called the families in order to update them on the decision and notify them that they would be receiving the letter from Liberman.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to send it,” Levengrond’s father responded, according to Hadashot news. “I’m not interested in the letter.”

Following the cancellation, Levengrond called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Liberman.

“If, God forbid, a war breaks out, can you really rely on such a person, who is unable to come and give me explanations as to why he wants to do half the job?” the bereaved father told Hadashot news, further criticizing the military’s intention to only partially demolish Na’alowa’s home.

According to Levengrond, Liberman was the one who leaked the phone conversation with the defense ministry official to the press.

On Tuesday, the victims’ families were joined by hundreds in a protest rally at the Barkan Industrial Park, which called for more severe reprisal measures to be taken against the attacker and his family.

The bereaved parents and siblings called for the death penalty to be employed against Na’alowa, for the entire building in which he lived to be demolished, for his family to be expelled from the West Bank and for more settlement construction to be announced in response to the attack.

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