No place in Israel for Abu Khdeir’s killers, Netanyahu says

While condemning racist ‘mentality’ that led to Muhammed Abu Khdeir’s killing, PM charges that ‘on the other side, city squares are named in honor of such murderers’

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he chairs the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, July 6, 2014 at his Jerusalem office. (photo credit: AFP/POOL/GALI TIBBON)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he chairs the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, July 6, 2014 at his Jerusalem office. (photo credit: AFP/POOL/GALI TIBBON)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned on Sunday evening the kidnapping-murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir, saying that Israeli society had no place for the Jewish extremists suspected to be behind the slaying.

Speaking to the media outside the home of the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, one of three Jewish teens murdered by Hamas-affiliated Palestinians last month, Netanyahu vowed the full brunt of the law would be brought to bear against Abu Khdeir’s murderers, while criticizing Palestinian society for honoring terrorists on their side.

“Such murderers have no place in Israeli society,” he said of Abu Khdeir’s killers, who are thought to have acted to avenge the kidnapping and killing of Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach.

“I promise you that we will bring the full force of the law to bear against the perpetrators of this horrific crime, which deserves every sort of condemnation and rejection,” he said.

Netanyahu went on to say, however, “This is a difference between us and our neighbors. There, murderers are received as heroes, and city squares are named in their honor. That isn’t the only difference between us. The inciters among us we put on trial, while incitement in the Palestinian Authority takes place in official media outlets, in the education system, incitement centered on the call to destroy the state of Israel.”

Earlier in the day, six Jewish extremists were arrested in connection with last week’s killing of Abu Khdeir, which set off days of rioting in Jerusalem and northern Israel.

Netanyahu sent his condolences to the Abu Khdeir family and also condemned the outburst of online racist comments by Jews in the wake of the June 30 discovery of the bodies of the three Jewish teens.

“We don’t distinguish between [Palestinian] terror and [Jewish] terror, and will deal severely with both. I don’t distinguish between incitement and incitement in the state of Israel. Just as I condemn with all my strength cries of ‘death to the Jews,’ I condemn cries of ‘death to the Arabs.’ When I heard about the Israeli student, who after the murder [of the Jewish teens] wrote on the Internet, ‘3-0 to the Palestinians, and we’re not even in the World Cup,’ I was shaken by the evil [in the statement].

“It is this same evil, the same mentality, which led to the murder of the youth from Shuafat [Abu Khdeir],” Netanyahu said. “We won’t let the extremists, no matter what side they’re from, ignite the region and lead to bloodshed. We cannot accept and we will oppose ‘price tag’ attacks [by Jewish extremists], and we oppose equally firebombs and stones and barricading roads [on the part of Israeli Arabs and East Jerusalem Palestinians]. We will act with all the means at our disposal to enforce the law.”

While he condemned the apparent racist motive behind Abu Khdeir’s brutal murder – forensic evidence indicates Abu Khdeir was likely burned alive by his killers – Netanyahu also demanded that the Palestinian Authority act swiftly to help locate the suspects in the murder of the Jewish teens – as Israel did with Abu Khdeir’s alleged killers.

“We know well who is responsible for the murder of Gil-ad, Naftali and Eyal, and we will get to them. The murderers left territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and returned there. Therefore it is the Authority’s responsibility to do everything to locate them, just like we’ve done, just as Israel’s security forces discovered in a few short days the murderers of the youth Muhammed Abu Khdeir.”

‘Shocking and unacceptable’

Several ministers also condemned the kidnapping-murder by Jewish extremists following the announcement Sunday of the arrest of the suspected perpetrators.

“This was a shocking and unacceptable act which any sane person, certainly in a strong and democratic country such as the State of Israel, must strongly condemn,” Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said in a statement.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday that Israelis “must all feel ashamed over the facts being uncovered in the case of the murdered Arab youth. The state of Israel can’t continue with business as usual in the face of the horrifying murder of an innocent Arab youth by Jewish murderers. There is no difference between [Jewish] blood and [Arab] blood.”

Lapid called on law enforcement agencies to “deal decisively and aggressively with the murderers,” and on Israelis “to work to eradicate the extremism in our midst.”

Naftali Bennett, from the nationalist Jewish Home party, called the killing “terrible, immoral and anti-Jewish.” He added that the killers should be prosecuted as terrorists.

Condemning the foul murder, Eitan Cabel, chair of the opposition Labor party’s Knesset faction declared that, “If this does not become a foundational turning point [to change Israel for the better], we might as well close down the country.”

In his Sunday statement, Netanyahu called “on all sides to act responsibly, not to carry out any rash actions.”

He commended “the speed with which [Israeli security services] solved the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir.”

And he praised the arrest of a suspect in the murder of Afula resident Shelley Dadon in May. “The suspect is a resident of I’billin in the Galilee. With him, too, we will deal severely, to the full extent of the law.”

“The strength of the state of Israel depends on its being a law-abiding state, and anyone who breaks the law will encounter a decisive response. Murder is murder. Incitement is incitement. And we will respond to both aggressively,” he vowed.

“It is important at this moment to unite, to behave according to our values as a Jewish and democratic state. Together we will defeat every effort to undermine the quiet and security of all Israel’s citizens,” he concluded.

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