Son of slain counterterrorism officer tells Bennett he is as much to blame as killer

PM gets cold shoulder from mourning family of Noam Raz, says they have right to say what they feel; Netanyahu gets warm welcome

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (with back to camera) pays a condolence call to the family of Sgt. Maj. Noam Raz, a policecounterterrorism officer killed last week by a Palestinian gunman, May 18, 2022 (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (with back to camera) pays a condolence call to the family of Sgt. Maj. Noam Raz, a policecounterterrorism officer killed last week by a Palestinian gunman, May 18, 2022 (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The family of a counterterrorism officer who was killed last week by a Palestinian gunman scolded Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over his security policies when he came to the bereaved family’s home to pay a condolence visit.

Bennett’s inclusion of Islamist political party Ra’am in the government he leads has drawn repeated attacks from the right-wing opposition, which claims the government cannot take the strong measures necessary to root out terrorism as these would cause Ra’am to bolt.

Slain Sgt. Maj. Noam Raz’s eldest son, Be’eri, told Bennett he blames the prime minister as much as he does the gunman who shot his father on Friday during a gun battle in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Bennett visited the settlement of Kida, where the Raz family was holding a week of mourning for Raz in accordance with Jewish custom.

“I don’t know how you can look yourself in the mirror,” Be’eri Raz told Bennett, according to Hebrew media reports. “I blame you as much as I blame the terrorist… You don’t deserve to be in the home my father lived in.

“You are a person only of words, zero action,” Be’eri said. “You and the government are destroying everything that the troops in the field are doing.”

Raz’s widow, Efrat, also criticized Bennett, telling the prime minister, “You are supposed to elevate the people of Israel — in settlement, security, policy. You have an opportunity to make change; be faithful to the values for which you were elected. Always remember who you are, what you were sent for, your mission to raise the spirit of the people.”

His sister said she felt like the country was missing a sense of “Jewish pride,” adding, “I can’t drive around and wave an Israeli flag during our Independence Day… A prime minister used to be a source of pride. I respect you, but I don’t feel [pride] in you,” she told Bennett.

Bennett later wrote on Twitter, “The family of an Israeli hero have every right to express to me everything that is in their hearts, and my duty is to listen.”

A demonstration had been planned against Bennett at the entrance to the settlement by right-wing activists and local residents, but the prime minister brought his scheduled arrival forward by an hour, dodging the protest.

Protesters instead gathered outside the Raz home while Bennett was inside for a visit that lasted about an hour.

As Bennett left the Raz home, protesters accosted him, calling him “a liar” and “a swindler,” Kan news reported.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted by Bennett last year, also visited the Raz home, arriving shortly after the prime minister left. He received a warm welcome from the family.

One of Raz’s sons told Netanyahu to “come back already and make sure there are no more murder victims,” the INN website reported.

Police commando Sgt. Maj. Noam Raz, 47, who was killed in an operation in Jenin on May 13, 2022. (Police)

Raz, 47, a veteran officer of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit, was laid to rest Sunday in the police section of Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Hundreds were in attendance at the funeral, which the Raz family had requested be closed to the media.

At his funeral, one of Raz’s sons stood up to eulogize his father, but then said he could not say anything in the presence of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and put down the microphone.

Another of Raz’s sons lamented at the funeral that there should have been more forceful Israeli action in the Jenin area to prevent danger to troops who took part in the raid.

Raz was hit by gunfire during a raid on terror suspects’ homes on Friday. He was taken to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where hospital officials said he arrived in critical condition. They made prolonged efforts to resuscitate him, but he had complex wounds to his upper body and eventually they were forced to declare him dead.

He was a founding member and resident of the Kida settlement in the West Bank and is survived by his wife, Efrat, and six children.

Bennett leads a diverse collection of eight parties from the left, center, and right of Israeli politics along with Ra’am. The prime minister’s Yamina party has drawn criticism from right-wing opponents for not fulfilling the nationalist agenda of his election campaign.

Though the party won seven seats in the election, one Yamina lawmaker, Amichai Chikli, refused to back the government and has since been ousted from the party as a rebel. Then in April, MK Idit Silman resigned from the government but not from the Knesset or her party, saying the government was “harming” the Jewish identity of Israel.

She has since called on her colleagues in the coalition and in Yamina “to express the stance of the majority of the Israeli public and establish a national Zionist government within this Knesset.”

Her exit ended the government’s majority in parliament, leaving it with just 60 seats, equal to those of the opposition.

MK Idit Silman chairs a Knesset Health Committee on May 10, 2022. (Flash90)

Earlier this week during a Knesset debate, Netanyahu, apparently referring to the recent wave of terror attacks, said “it stems from the weakness of this deceitful government.”

“Our enemies are suddenly not afraid. They feel your weakness and futility,” Netanyahu added, accusing the government of relying for its existence “on those who would reject the existence of the Jewish state.”

Ra’am’s leader MK Mansour Abbas has repeatedly denounced terrorism, and has noted that before this coalition was formed he had held talks with Netanyahu to support a potential government led by him. The opposition leader has downplayed those talks and denied they were related to coalition building.

In December, Abbas gave a speech suggesting that Israel’s status as a Jewish state could not be changed and that Arab Israelis would be best served following his pragmatic approach rather than trying to challenge the country’s identity.

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