Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday harshly criticized a Zionist Union lawmaker for saying that a Palestinian who attempts to stab an Israeli soldier is not a terrorist, unlike someone who attacks civilians.
“MK [Zouheir] Bahloul’s comments are shameful,” Netanyahu wrote in Hebrew on Facebook. “IDF soldiers protect us with their bodies from bloodthirsty murderers. I expect all Israeli citizens, and members of Knesset in particular, to give them their full support.”
Freshman MK Bahloul, an Israeli Arab former sports broadcaster and journalist, made the comments earlier Thursday in reference to the stabbing attack last month in which a soldier shot a disarmed Palestinian assailant in the head. The incident made international headlines and sparked a national debate after a video of the incident emerged. The soldier, whose name has not been released due to a gag order, now faces manslaughter charges, and had his detention at an IDF base extended by eight days on Thursday.
The Zionist Union also sought to distance itself from comments, saying Bahloul’s remarks did not reflect the party’s position.
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog wrote Thursday on Twitter that he had told Bahloul he “rejects and strongly condemns his statements, and that the position of the Zionist Union is a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.”
The party itself said that the “terrorist from Hebron was like any other terrorist” and that Bahloul’s comments “did not reflect or represent the position of the party.”
“We are in the midst of a wave of terror and the government should start acting against this wave productively,” the statement read.
Bahloul told Army Radio that the “word ‘terrorist’ has become all-inclusive” and that every Palestinian was now suspected of being a potential terrorist.
“All those who struggle for their freedom and independence are considered terrorists by Israelis,” he said.
The MK did, however, make a distinction between Palestinians who attack civilians and those who attack soldiers.
“I agree that a person who takes the lives of members of a whole family is a terrorist. They are terrorists and murderers who deserve punishment,” Bahloul said.
But “those who attack families in their sleep [like in the case of the Fogel family in Itamar in 2011 in which the parents and three children, including a three-month old were stabbed to death] cannot be considered terrorists if they attack an IDF position,” he said.
The nationalist Jewish Home party responded to Bahloul’s remarks saying that the Labor Party (the greater partner in the Zionist Union, along with Hatnuah) “has slowly transformed from post-Zionist to pro-Palestinian.”
“[Former prime minister and Labor Party leader] Yitzhak Rabin is turning over in his grave,” the party said in a statement, according to Channel 2.