PM: Full severity of the law must be exhausted

Right-wing MKs call for execution of Palestinian charged with raping 7-year-old

Lawmakers allege that suspect was nationalistically motivated, but police say it appears to have been criminal in nature

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

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference following the dissolving of the Knesset, and ahead of the new elections, in Tel Aviv, on May 30, 2019. (Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference following the dissolving of the Knesset, and ahead of the new elections, in Tel Aviv, on May 30, 2019. (Flash90)

Several right-wing lawmakers demanded that a Palestinian man accused of raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl be put to death, though police believe that the crime was likely not nationalistically motivated, as several politicians have alleged.

On Sunday, police indicted a 54-year-old Palestinian custodian from the central West Bank village of Dir Kadis for the kidnap and rape of a 7-year-old girl in a nearby settlement.

A growing list of right-wing lawmakers on Monday were demanding the death penalty for the suspect.

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, who has pushed legislation to make it easier for courts to impose the death penalty in certain terror cases, called the incident “a well-planned attack on a small, innocent and helpless girl.”

“This is not pedophilia. This is pure terror — one of the worst kinds I have heard in recent years,” he said in a statement.

“This is exactly the type of case in which I would not hesitate, and demand the court to sentence the despicable terrorist to death,” Liberman added, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having blocked the legislation.

Liberman has proposed a law which would allow a death penalty conviction in cases of murder, but not rape.

“The vile person who committed this terrible act has no right to exist in this world — he and all those who helped him,” said Union of Right-Wing Parties chairman Rafi Peretz.

Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Bezalel Smotrich arrives for a Jerusalem Day celebration at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Peretz’s No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich tweeted, “If death could only be imposed on this scum. Nothing less. Such a monster does not deserve to breathe air in our world.”

The suspect, who has not been named, was charged Sunday with rape in aggravated circumstances, assault, and kidnapping.

According to the indictment, the defendant began working earlier this year as a maintenance staff member at a school in the central West Bank. There, he established a connection with the victim by giving her candy. He then brought the girl to a building near the school that was under construction, forcibly held her there, raped her, then released her.

A police official said they were treating the incident as a criminally, and not nationalistically, motivated attack.

The official said authorities were searching for an additional two suspects who — according to the victim’s testimony — pinned her down and laughed while the defendant raped her.

Netanyahu condemned the attack in a tweet but stopped short of explicitly calling for the death penalty. “The courts must exhaust the severity of the law with everyone responsible for this terrible act,” he wrote.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich accused the right-wing lawmakers of only speaking out against rape when there are suspicions that the act was nationalistically motivated.

They are “cynically and nationalistically dancing on the blood of a girl who was the victim of a shocking rape,” she said.

An attorney for the parents of the girl, Haim Bleicher from the Honenu legal aid organization, also issued a statement claiming that the crime had been nationalistically motivated.

According to the attorney, the attackers had told the victim that she had “deserved” what had happened to her.

The indictment followed a three-month investigation carried out by the police. The defendant had denied all charges during the investigation, putting his word against the girl’s testimony.

The West Bank settlement where the defendant was employed was not named in the charge sheet and the girl’s parents have obtained a gag order on the identity of their daughter.

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