PM, president laud capture of Israeli teen’s killer; hardliners demand reprisal

As Netanyahu and Rivlin praise security forces for quickly nabbing suspect, ministers Bennett and Shaked call for implementation of law cutting PA funding over terror payments

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Ori Ansbacher (Courtesy)
Ori Ansbacher (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin on Saturday lauded security forces for their swift capture of the Palestinian man suspected of murdering 19-year-old Israeli Ori Ansbacher, as more hardline lawmakers demanded retribution over the brutal killing.

“I congratulate the Shin Bet security service and the Yamam [police counter-terrorism unit] that within just a few hours managed to capture the abhorrent murderer of Ori Ansbacher,” said Netanyahu in a statement.

“Israel’s long arm reaches anyone who harms us and we settle accounts with those who do [harm]. I wish to express my condolences to the Ansbacher family and to give them strength during their time of heavy grief,” he added.

“Personally, and on behalf of all Israelis, I would like to thank the security forces for capturing the despicable terrorist who murdered Ori Ansbacher,” Rivlin said in a statement. “We will not be deterred and we will not cease our uncompromising fight against terrorism. We will seek out the perpetrators and their associates until we find them and punish them to the fullest extent of the law, in every place and wherever they hide from us.”

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man in Ramallah suspected in the murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher on February 8, 2019. (Israel Police)

Earlier on Saturday, the Palestinian suspect was identified as Arafat Irfaiya, a 29-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron.

Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her, the police and the Shin Bet said in a statement, citing Irfaiya’s account under questioning. “He attacked and murdered her,” the statement said.

The motive for the murder is still being investigated, the Shin Bet added, amid speculation the attack was “nationalistic,” a term generally used to describe Palestinian terrorism. Ynet reported that Irfaiya is affiliated with the Hamas terror group.

“The interrogation of the suspect is ongoing and is focused, in particular, on the motives for the murder,” the Shin Bet statement read.

Irfayia had previously served time for being in Israel illegally and for possession of a knife, Channel 13 reported.

Ansbacher, 19, was found dead in the woods at Ein Yael in south Jerusalem late Thursday, with what police said were “signs of violence,” after she was reported missing earlier in the day.

More hardline ministers and lawmakers on Saturday called for additional measures to be taken against the Palestinian Authority and convicted terrorists.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on Netanyahu to implement Knesset legislation passed in July to slash funds to the PA by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

“The terrorists are no longer afraid. At this moment [they] are preparing the next terrible murder of Jews,” Bennett said in a statement.

The education minister, along with co-New Right leader and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, vowed to support the implementation of the legislation, which was supposed to have gone into effect in January. Security officials have reportedly opposed the law due to concerns that it may lead to the collapse of the PA, whose security forces Israel cooperates with considerably to limit terror in the West Bank.

Other right-wing lawmakers, including Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, demanded legislation sanctioning the death penalty for convicted terrorists.

A bill that aims to make it easier for Israel to sentence convicted Palestinian attackers of civilians and soldiers to death had been advancing in the Knesset late last year, but since stalled after Netanyahu dissolved the lawmaking body and called elections for April.

However, the legislation has also been opposed by security officials, including Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman who called it “unhelpful” while testifying in front of the Knesset panel in November.

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.

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