Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the government will move to revoke the citizenship of the Israeli Arab who paraglided into Syria on Saturday night in an apparent attempt to join one of the rebel groups.
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Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the same steps would be taken against any Israeli who crosses over to Syria to join terror groups. "Anyone who joins the ranks of Israel's enemies to fight against it will not be an Israeli citizen," he said.
The family and friends of the Jaljulya resident commented on the incident Sunday morning. The young man’s uncle said that although the family is secular, his nephew had become religious over the past year. The uncle said the young man’s father had received a phone call about an hour after an IDF observation post spotted the paraglider, in which he was told, “Your son is fine. He’s with us. Don’t worry,” before the call was cut off. The father says the speaker had a Bedouin accent.
“He started becoming more religious. He started praying every morning in the mosque,” said the uncle, who said he last saw the young man on Friday. “I told him that he’s 23 now and the best thing he should do is get married and have children and raise a family.”
The uncle also said the young man is the second of five children, and that the family is shocked by his actions. “From the moment his mother understood what happened, she’s been crying and shouting for him to come home. Now there’s talk that he bought the paraglider and hid it in his car. It’s not clear how he managed to do it. You have to know how to control and fly one of those things. Where did he practice? We don’t know.”
Jaljulya council head Faik Odeh said Sunday that the paraglider’s family is not considered extremist at all. “It’s not one of the biggest families in town, but they are well known,” he said. “They’re a quiet family.”
Odeh said the council has no information on the incident. “We know that the Shin Bet and the police showed up this morning [Sunday]. I don’t know what happened there – if he got carried away by the wind or if he got carried away by the spirit of the Islamic State. We’re trying to find out all we can.
"Maybe the recent unrest surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque affected him. It is certainly affecting our young people, and not necessarily in a good way. I can tell you we’re not really prepared for such things. We once had to deal with a fellow who came back from ISIS, and we thought we’d put all that behind us. And now this happens,” added Odeh.
Also at the cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said he was glad to hear the positive response from the Jordanian foreign minister regarding his statement on maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount. He expressed hope that the understandings reached will calm the violence.
The prime minister also spoke about the nation-state bill – which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and would subordinate Israel’s democratic identity to its Jewish one. On Saturday, Netanyahu referred the controversial legislation to a special panel.
In Sunday's meeting, Netanyahu said he is determined to pass the bill in the Knesset but only after all government coalition partners are consulted, as agreed upon in the coalition agreements.