Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday paid a condolence call to the family of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who was killed in a combined shooting and stabbing terror attack in the northern West Bank on Sunday.
During the visit in the central West Bank settlement of Eli, Netanyahu told the bereaved family he would attempt to legislate the death penalty for terrorists in Israel. “It’s not promising, it’s not promising,” he added, according to footage from the visit.
Ettinger, a 47-year-old father of 12, succumbed to his injuries on Monday, a day after the attack that began at Ariel Junction, in which IDF soldier Gal Keidan, 19, was also killed.
According to Israeli authorities, after fatally stabbing Keidan, the suspect, who has been named as Omar Abu Laila, 18, grabbed his gun and opened fire at passing vehicles, hitting Ettinger. He then stole a vehicle and drove to the nearby Gitai junction, where he opened fire again, wounding IDF soldier Alexander Dvorsky. The terrorist remains at large.
Efrat Ettinger, the victim’s daughter, told Netanyahu that terrorists who carry out deadly attacks should not be allowed to live.
“I think that a person who makes a decision to take such action — it must be clear that he will die,” she said. “A monster like this cannot continue to walk among us.”
In response, Netanyahu emphasized his government’s attempts to advance the death penalty for convicted terrorists.
Although the death penalty formally exists in Israeli law, it has only ever been used once — in 1962 in the case of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. It is technically allowed in cases of high treason, as well as in certain circumstances under the martial law that applies within the IDF and in the West Bank, but currently requires a unanimous decision from a panel of three judges, and has never been implemented.
“We’ve identified the three-judge restriction that exists [in the law],” Netanyahu told Efrat Ettinger. “We don’t determine the punishment. We will try to reduce the need for three judges.”
“It’s not promising, It’s not promising,” he added, apparently in the first public acknowledgement that legislation faces significant obstacles.
Legislation that would have expanded the use of the death penalty in terror cases failed to advance late last year amid political wrangling after Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who had been pushing the bill, left the coalition.
Netanyahu, who as defense minister oversees the military prosecution, backed the death penalty bill in November. He also called for the death penalty after a 2017 terror attack in which several members of a family were knifed to death inside their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.
However, the legislation has been opposed by security officials, including Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman who called it “unhelpful” when testifying before the Knesset panel in November.
During the visit, Netanyahu was also confronted by relatives of Achiad Ettinger over IDF soldiers’ alleged hesitation to respond at the scene of the terror attack, after reports emerged that several servicemen failed to open fire. The army said it was investigating.
“I want soldiers to act properly, not as the media says,” said Rachel Ettinger, the sister of the slain rabbi. “How they reacted in the terror attack — this is the result of hesitation.”
Netanyahu replied by expressing hope that assessment “was no longer true,” adding that “there is something very important in your words.”
Relatives told reporters Sunday that Ettinger turned his car around after being shot and managed to fire four bullets in the direction of the Palestinian terrorist, causing him to flee the scene rather than target others. The IDF has been unable to corroborate the account, which was not picked up by security cameras at the scene.
Also Tuesday, Netanyahu visited the nearby ancient Shilo national site, along with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“I am very excited to be here. I came here for the first time in 1967, right after the Six Day War, as a young soldier. I remember that during navigational exercises, I went to Tel Shilo to see ancient Shilo, the capital of Israel,” said Netanyahu.
“This is exciting. It attests to our link with the Land of Israel and to the great wonder of the revival of Israel.”