Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara has given the green light for a police investigation of Knesset Member Zvika Fogel of the Otzma Yehudit Party on suspicion of inciting terrorism, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
In a radio interview on Monday, Fogel said, “Yesterday a terrorist came from Huwara? Huwara is closed and burned. That’s what I want to see. Only thus can we obtain deterrence.” The remark came a day after a riot by Israeli Jews in the Palestinian village, following a deadly terrorist attack by one of its residents.
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, chairman of Otzma Yehudit, criticized the attorney general’s decision, calling it further confirmation of Israel’s partisan legal system, according to Channel 11.
“One law for the right and … one law for the left, and clear proof of the necessity of [judicial] reform,” said Ben-Gvir.
Ben-Gvir defended Fogel, saying the lawmaker had made it clear he wasn’t calling for citizens to take the law into their own hands. Fogel is only in favor of harming supporters of terrorism, not all Arabs, he said.
During the interview on Monday, Fogel said, “What residents of Judea and Samaria did last night in Huwara was to create the strongest deterrent that the State of Israel has had since ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ [in 2002].” He added that “after murders like those yesterday, when the army doesn’t take action, villages need to burn.”
Following the outcry over his remarks, Fogel retracted them.
“I say unequivocally—I do not encourage civilians to burn villages,” he said at the start of a meeting of the Knesset committee he chairs.
He later wrote on Twitter that his words had been twisted.
“I said that the state is the body that needs to act to deter the terrorists, and under no circumstances should citizens [do the same]. We cannot arrive at a situation where civilians take the law into their own hands. The government and the IDF’s role is to provide the necessary defense, with aggressiveness and determination, and not by accepting the situation,” he said.
Following Monday’s interview, opposition leader Yair Lapid called for Fogel to be imprisoned for his incendiary remarks.
“This is not a fully right-wing government, it is a fully anarchist government. MK Fogel should go to jail for incitement to terror,” he tweeted.
Other opposition lawmakers said that Fogel could no longer serve as chairman of the Knesset National Security Committee.
On Sunday, a Palestinian terrorist shot and killed Hillel and Yagel Yaniv as they drove through Huwara on the area’s main north-south highway. The brothers, ages 21 and 19, hailed from the nearby Jewish community of Har Bracha. The attacker or attackers remain at large and an IDF manhunt is still underway.
Following the shooting, scores of Israelis set Palestinians’ homes and cars aflame in Huwara. The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Sameh Aqtash, 37, was shot dead by “Israeli fire” during accompanying riots in Za’tara, south of Huwara. Aqtash’s brother was quoted by AFP as stating that he was shot by an Israeli soldier, not a civilian. The IDF has denied the accusation, stating that Aqtash was “not shot by an Israeli soldier.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly condemned the lawbreakers.
“Taking the law into one’s hands, rioting and committing violence against innocents—this is not our way, and I express my forceful condemnation,” said Herzog.
”We must allow the IDF, the police and the security forces to apprehend the despicable terrorist and restore order immediately.”
In a video statement, Netanyahu said, “I ask, even when the blood is boiling, not to take the law into one’s hands. I ask that the IDF and the security forces be allowed to carry out their work. I remind you that in recent weeks, they have targeted dozens of terrorists and thwarted dozens of attacks. Let the IDF complete its pursuit and do not take the law into your hands; together we will defeat terrorism.”