Right-wing Israeli minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday condemned the abduction and murder of a Palestinian teen last as "despicable, immoral and anti-Jewish," after it emerged that police had arrested six suspects and increasingly believed it to be the act of Jewish extremism.
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Bennett, chairman of the Habayit Hayehdi party, called for Israel's anti-terrorist law to be leveled against those responsible for 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir's murder.
In a rare press conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the murder, telling reporters that he saw no difference between terrorist activities carried out by Jews and those carried out by Arabs, and would fight each with equally a heavy hand.
"We do not distinguish between acts of terrorism, and we will react harshly against both. We do not distinguish between forms of incitement," Netanyahu said. "As I condemn the calls of death to Arabs, I condemn calls of death to Jews."
Speaking at a press conference Sunday evening, Netanyahu used the arrest of six suspects linked to the murder of Abu Khdeir's murder to make a dig at the Palestinian Authority.
"This is what differentiates us with our neighbors," he said. "There the murderers are welcomed as heroes and squares are named for them. This is not the only difference between us. We put on trial those who incite, while incitement in the Palestinian Authority is carried out in official instruments and the educational system, incitement that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel."
Netanyahu said that Israel expected the Palestinian Authority to aid in the search for the kidnappers of the three Israeli teens with same expediency that the Israeli security forces used to locate Abu Khdeir's murderers.
"We know well who stands behind the kidnapping and murder of Gilad [Shaar], Naftali [Fraenkel] and Eyal [Yifrah], and we will reach them. The murderers came from Palestinian Authority territory, and it their responsibility to do everything to locate them, just as we did, just as Israeli forces took care of the matter within a few days and located the suspects in the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in a statement Sunday that he was "embarrassed and horrified by the brutal murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir." He also called on treating the boy's murderers like all other terrorists.
"The lowly murderers do not represent the Jewish people and its values, and we should relate to them in the way we relate to terrorists," he said. "We shall not allow Jewish terrorists among us to disrupt the fabric of life between different groups in the State of Israel and to hurt the innocent only because they are Arabs. Such acts and those similar to them do damage to the State of Israel and give it an ugly face, and we must fight their perpetrators with an iron fist."
The Israel Police said Sunday that it increasingly believed that Abu Khdeir was killed by Jewish extremists in revenge of the murder of the three Israeli teens. Israel would not tolerate the extremism that led to the murder, Netanyahu said. "I wish to send condolences to the family of the boy and promise you that we will wield the full weight of the law against those who committed this heinous crime, which deserves all condemnation. Such murderers have no place in Israeli society."
Netanyahu said Israel would prosecute the suspects in the murder of Abu Khdeir to the full extent of the law.
'Doesn’t excuse the use of excessive force'
His ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, made a similar statement on Fox News on Sunday. Dermer said Israeli authorities had "strong suspicions" that Jewish nationalists had carried out of the murder of Abu Khdeir, and that the suspects would be "prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Like Netanyahu, Dermer compared Israel's handling of the Jewish murder of Palestinians to the Palestinians' handling of the reverse. “They will not be hailed as heroes,” said Dermer. “There will not be public squares named after them.”
Dermer also addressed the beating of Abu Khdeir's cousin, Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old from Florida who was arrested at the anti-Israel demonstration in Shoafat on Friday and was released to house arrest Sunday. He said his country condemns the use of excessive force but that Tariq Khdeir “was not an innocent bystander pulled out of school yard,” according to the Fox News website.
Dermer said Khdeir was masked and joined several others in attacking police.
“But that doesn’t excuse the use of excessive force,” Dermer added.