Hundreds of residents of the Arab Israeli city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye held a welcoming ceremony Monday for a resident who was released from prison after serving 35 years for the murder of an Israeli soldier in 1984.
Rushdi Hamdan Abu Mukh was a member of the terror cell that killed Moshe Tamam. The other members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine cell were all also Arab Israeli citizens, and all were given life sentences.
Video posted on social media showed Abu Mukh being given a hero’s welcome and paraded through a main street in the city. No Arab Israeli lawmakers were reported as attending Abu Mukh’s arrival in the city, though on hand was former MK Ibrahim Sarsour, a former leader of the Ra’am party, which is seeking to join a ruling coalition in the wake on last month’s elections.
Abu Mukh thanked those who came out to welcome him, saying “I waited for this day after difficult years,” Ynet reported. “The residents moved me.”
כ-300 איש קיבלו בבאקה אל-גרבייה את פניו של המחבל הערבי-ישראלי רושדי אבו-מוך, מרוצחי החייל משה תמם, ששוחרר מהכלא אחרי 35 שנה. בין מקבלי הפנים – סגן ראש העיר וגם יו"ר רע"מ-תע"ל לשעבר איברהים צרצור
(אורלי אלקלעי)#עצם_העניין pic.twitter.com/sZ9lQHMVpP
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) April 5, 2021
The Tamam family has appealed to both Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana with a demand that Abu Mukh’s citizenship be revoked.
Deri consulted with security officials to learn their position on the matter, as is required in any case of revoking citizenship, but Interior Ministry said officials are opposed to the idea, according to the Ynet news site. Deri reportedly plans to call an urgent meeting to further discuss the matter.
“As a family, today our hearts are broken,” Tamam’s niece Ortal Tamam told Ynet. “To see the murderer of my uncle released as a hero, received with adoration and return to his life in a community close to my family home is heartbreaking.”
Abu Mukh’s PFLP cell originally planned to kidnap an IDF soldier and transfer him to Syria as a bargaining chip for the release of imprisoned terrorists, but instead decided to slay Tamam after capturing him at the Netanya junction as he made his way home from his base. He was later killed near the West Bank city of Jenin.
Security forces caught the cell members and they were sentenced to life in prison in 1986, but in 2012 then-president Shimon Peres decided to reduce Abu Mukh’s sentence to 35 years.
Abu Mukh’s family told Ynet that he was not directly involved in killing Tamam and was against murdering the soldier.
“Today he is released and we prepared for him everything so that we will receive him in the best way,” a family member told the website.
Abu Mukh is said to be one of the highest-paid recipients of monthly Palestinian Authority stipends, part of a controversial program that awards those who carry out terror attacks on Israelis.
صور| جانب من التحضيرات في مدينة باقة الغربية بالداخل المحتل، لاستقبال الأسير رشدي أبو مخ (58 عاما) يوم غدٍ الإثنين بعد اعتقالٍ دام 35 عاماً في سجون الاحتلال pic.twitter.com/o9KSET8Cux
— فلسطين أون لاين (@pl24online) April 4, 2021
The Ra’am party, whose former leader Sarsur attended the welcoming ceremony for Abu Mukh, sits in a potential kingmaker position for forming the next government following the inconclusive elections last month.
With the Knesset divided between those who want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remain in office and those who want to oust him, both sides have been courting Ra’am, a conservative, Islamist party.
Last week party leader Mansour Abbas gave a press conference in which he called for peace and cooperation between Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel.
However, establishing a government that relies on even outside support from Ra’am faces opposition on both sides of the divided Knesset, with some seeing the party as anti-Zionist and accusing it of supporting Palestinian terrorism.