The US State Department issued an indirect reproach on Friday of far-right coalition MK Limor Son Har-Melech, of the Otzma Yehudit party, after she defended the Jewish terrorist responsible for the 2015 murders of three members of a Palestinian family as a “holy righteous man” during a speech at a fundraising event for the convicted extremist.
“It is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. This certainly includes inflammatory rhetoric and actions,” read a statement from a State Department spokesperson Friday.
“We would refer to the Knesset member to discuss those comments,” the spokesperson said.
The comment came after Son Har-Melech sparked an uproar this week for her defense of Amiram Ben Uliel, who was found guilty in 2020 of three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, arson, and conspiring to commit a racially motivated crime, as part of a “terrorist act.”
Ben Uliel is serving three life sentences plus 20 years for the deadly firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, in which Riham and Saad Dawabsha were killed along with their 18-month-old son, Ali Saad. Only the couple’s five-year-old son, Ahmed, survived the terror attack, with extensive burns.
“I don’t support a murderer. I know he is innocent,” Son Har-Melech told the fundraiser event in a clip posted on Tuesday, before recounting a visit she made to Ben Uliel and hailing him as “this righteous man, this holy righteous man [tzaddik], really.”
In remarks on Wednesday, following the backlash, she doubled down: “Every Jew in the State of Israel needs to be losing sleep knowing that a Jew is sitting in jail only because of a case based on torture,” claimed Har-Melech, whose former spokesman is a suspect in the killing of a Palestinian during a clash between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the northern West Bank last month.
The fundraiser Har-Melech spoke at was organized by a group pushing for Ben Uliel’s release, which reportedly raked in over NIS 1.2 million at the event. Supporters of Ben Uliel have largely focused on the fact that his confession was obtained using what the Shin Bet calls “special measures” — decried as torture by him and by rights groups.
The son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also appeared to support Ben Uliel on Friday, sharing a social media post that defended the convicted terrorist while attending his father’s speech at United Nations headquarters in New York earlier.
The retweet by Yair Netanyahu came amid increasingly vocal advocacy by far-right coalition figures on behalf of Ben Uliel as well as by other supporters. On Thursday, a list of donors to the Ben Uliel campaign began surfacing and it included prominent rabbis in the West Bank settler movement and singer Ariel Zilber who also publicly expressed support for the terrorist. In response, several leading singers announced they were canceling their participation in an upcoming birthday concert with Zilber.
An unnamed senior official in the security establishment told Channel 12 in a report aired on Friday night that these recent campaigns supportive of the Jewish terrorist were a “danger to the security of the State of Israel.”
דקות לפני נאום רהמ, יאיר נתניהו נמצא לצידו ומצייץ ציוץ מחדש של תכנים המטילים ספק בהרשעת רוצח משפחת דוואבשה. בינתיים הוא צמוד להורים. לפני יומיים אמר גורם מדיני בכיר שראש הממשלה אינו מודע לקמפיין הציבורי בעד בן אוליאל pic.twitter.com/40ZDqpbdGR
— Tal Schneider טל שניידר تال شنايدر (@talschneider) September 22, 2023
The campaigns, said the official, are “intended to delegitimize the Shin Bet’s investigations against Jewish terrorism, to deter [the agency] from dealing with Jewish terrorists.”
“The delegitimization campaign in which certain elected officials are also taking part will first and foremost serve the thousands of Palestinian security prisoners, many of whom are murderers of Jews, who may catch the tailwind, and we’ll soon see them sowing doubt on their conviction period. This is a danger to the security of the state, and we should put an end to this madness,” said the unnamed official.
Last week, Har-Melech was one of 14 coalition lawmakers — more than half of them from Netanyahu’s Likud party — who appealed to Shin Bet security chief Ronen Bar for Ben Uliel’s incarceration conditions to be eased, claiming he was being held “under the most difficult incarceration conditions in the State of Israel.”
Prison officials approved Ben Uliel’s transfer to the “Torah wing” for Rosh Hashanah over the weekend, before moving him back to solitary confinement.
Yair Netanyahu has a history of posting incendiary messages on social media, leading to a report in April that the premier had demanded he stop posting amid accusations he was inflaming tensions in Israel and exacerbating a diplomatic rift with the United States.
In the post he shared on Friday, moments before his father took the stage in New York, a user who goes by Tsahi cast doubt on Ben Uliel’s guilt, seeming to dismiss his recollection of accurate details from the firebombing that the prosecutors had not been aware of until his confession.
“It’s so very simple. A principle that differentiates between monsters and humans. You don’t put a human being in prison based on a confession obtained through torture. What’s so complicated?” read the post shared by Netanyahu, referencing the enhanced interrogation Ben Uliel allegedly endured before he confessed to the crime.
“After two minutes of torture you too would sing whatever they’d ask you to,” the user wrote.