A man who lost five members of his family in a terror attack expressed outrage Tuesday at the display of the victims’ photographs in the Knesset plenum by the far-right Religious Zionism party.
During Sunday’s confirmation session in the Knesset, Religious Zionism MKs heckled incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett while holding up portraits of people killed by Palestinian terrorists captioned with “Shame on you,” protesting the fact that the new coalition includes Ra’am, an Arab Islamist part that Religious Zionism accuses, without evidence, of supporting Palestinian terrorism.
Among the photos were pictures of Rabbi Ehud and Ruth Fogel, and three of their six children — 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and 3-month-old Hadas — who were brutally murdered in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in 2011.
The Religious Zionism party said that the protest was done at the request of the Choosing Life Forum of bereaved families.
Merav Hajaj, whose daughter Shir was killed in a 2017 truck-ramming attack on IDF soldiers during an educational tour in Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel that the forum was angry at Bennett because it had supported his election campaign that included a promise to not partner with Ra’am.
Hajaj said that approval for use of the Fogels’ photos in the Knesset protest was given by Ruth Fogel’s family, the Ben-Yishais.
However, Haim Fogel, who lost his son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren in the stabbing attack, said he did not back the action.
“To make use of my children for a political battle is outrageous,” Fogel told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in a report published Tuesday.
“We in the family do not get involved in political disputes,” he said. “Udi [Ehud] and Ruthie were the same. By what right do Knesset members use pictures of my son, my daughter-in-law, and grandchildren in a blatant campaign?”
Fogel said his position had nothing to do with his own feelings about the new government.
Religious Zionism said in a statement that the use of terror victims’ photos during the Knesset session protest was done “at the request of the forum for bereaved families. We are very sorry if a mistake was made regarding the Fogel family.”
“They selected the photos and passed them on to us with the caption, and after a preliminary inquiry — made by them at our request — regarding the consent of the families of the murdered,” the party said.
Hajaj, who helped prepare the photos for the protest, said the forum had campaigned on behalf of Yamina and Bennett ahead of the March 23 elections.
Even the day before the vote, Yamina asked the forum to put out a letter of support for the party, and the forum complied, publishing a statement describing Bennett as a “real man of the right wing,” Hajaj said.
Bennett, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and the rest of the Yamina party consistently assured the forum that they would not sit with Ra’am, Hajaj said, She accused the Arab party’s leader, MK Mansour Abbas, of running nonprofit organizations that provide humanitarian assistance — including cash — to terrorists, among them the killer of her own daughter.
Bennett “used us and cast us aside,” she said in explaining the anger that prompted the forum to organize the Knesset protest with the help of the Religious Zionism party.
With its confirmation by the Knesset, the new government ended more than 12 years of consecutive rule by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Religious Zionism, a far-right religious nationalist party, is a key ally of Netanyahu and his Likud party.
On Sunday, as Bennett attempted to present the new coalition to the Knesset in his inaugural speech, he was repeatedly heckled by lawmakers allied with Netanyahu who opposed the change in government.
The new government was eventually approved with 60 MKs in favor and 59 against. One lawmaker from Ra’a abstained from the vote.