Rivlin tells family of slain Israeli: Country built on love, not vengeance

President calls family’s demand to legalize their Havat Gilad outpost ‘logical,’ but stops short of throwing his support behind the move

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

President Reuven Rivlin (second to left) makes a condolence visit to the family of Raziel Shevach in the Havat Gilad outpost on January 18, 2018. (Credit: Mark Nyman)
President Reuven Rivlin (second to left) makes a condolence visit to the family of Raziel Shevach in the Havat Gilad outpost on January 18, 2018. (Credit: Mark Nyman)

President Reuven Rivlin paid a condolence call on Sunday to the family of slain rabbi Raziel Shevach, telling them that “the land of Israel is built out of love, not vengeance.”

“We will settle, live and cling to our land out of love,” Rivlin said at the Shevach home in the northern West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad, making an apparent reference to the calls for vengeance that were heard at the rabbi’s funeral.

Shevach was murdered by Palestinian terrorists last Tuesday in a drive-by shooting outside the hilltop community southeast of Nablus. The father of six was 35 years old.

Responding to the president’s words, Shevach’s father Moshe said, “We do not care about vengeance. We want rebirth.” He went on to ask the president to recommend that Havat Gilad be legalized “for the sake of the children, for the sake of the victim.”

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was murdered in a terror attack in the West Bank on January 9, 2017 (courtesy)

Rivlin characterized the request as “logical,” but stopped short of a clear endorsement of the idea.

“The State of Israel will ultimately have to decide what its status in the land of Israel is,” said Rivlin, referring to the current disputed status of the West Bank.

“There is logic here that requires consideration or at least attention,” he said.

The elder Shevach told the president that the northern West Bank outpost’s land was purchased legally from its original Palestinian landowners.

Shortly thereafter, the hilltop community was founded in 2002 and named after Gilad Zar, the security coordinator of the Shomron Regional Council, who was shot dead in an attack a year earlier.

Palestinians, however, have denied the purchase, claiming that the documents were fake.

Affirming the settlers’ claims, Rivlin told the family that the land on which Havat Gilad sits was “purchased in a peaceful manner… out of love.”

Also making a condolence visit Sunday was Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who was more forthcoming in his support for legalizing the outpost.

“I appeal to the prime minister to hasten these actions. We ask to approve Havat Gilad today. We should not have arrived at this moment, but it has come and obligates us all and you as well,” said Ariel in a video statement outside the Shevach home.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (L) makes a condolence visit to the family of Raziel Shevach in the Havat Gilad outpost on January 14, 2018. (Credit: Roy Hadi)

“We swear to build the Land of Israel, and there is no one to stop the redemption of the people of Israel… You cannot stop this melody. It is a divine melody in which we are its messengers,” he added

At Shevach’s funeral on Wednesday, dozens of mourners interrupted Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s eulogy with calls for “revenge.” The Jewish Home party leader attempted to calm the crowd by saying that “the only revenge is to keep building” and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to legalize the outpost.

Culture Minister Miri Regev and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein made similar declarations during condolence visits to the Shevach family home last Thursday.

Also that day, Netanyahu instructed the Defense Ministry to officially hook up Havat Gilad to the electricity grid. The outpost, southeast of Nablus, currently receives electricity through a makeshift connection to the power grid. Regulating the service would allow for the installment of proper infrastructure linking the hilltop community to the national power network.

A spokeswoman for the Samaria Regional Council said that the residents of Havat Gilad have been paying the Israel Electric Corporation for power, but that Netanyahu’s move would enable regulated electricity supply at a higher voltage.

But settler leaders told The Times of Israel that the move was merely “spin.”

“We’ve called on him to legalize the entire community and he comes back with this nonsense about electricity,” said one senior official.

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