An Israeli district court has ruled to allow a young settler, suspected of killing a Palestinian woman after throwing stones at her car, to return to his home, despite objections by the Shin Bet security service and state prosecutors, who are concerned that he will be further radicalized.
The adolescent, who cannot be publicly named under Israeli law, was until now living under house arrest with his grandparents within the Green Line, but is originally from the West Bank settlement of Kokhav Hashahar, east of Ramallah. The conditions of his house arrest will continue there, tagged with an electronic tracking device and under the supervision of his family.
The minor was arrested in October 2018 at a religious school in the settlement of Rehelim, along with other students who were suspected of throwing rocks at the vehicle of a Palestinian family. According to the indictment, the accused and other students at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva were standing along Highway 60 between the Rechelim and Tapuach junctions, south of Nablus, “when the youth lifted a rock weighing almost two kilograms with the intent of using it to harm passengers in an Arab vehicle, driven by a racist ideology and hostility towards Arabs.”
The stone went through the windshield of the car, hitting 47-year-old Aisha Rabi in the head. She died shortly after, while her husband Yacoub suffered light injuries. The other suspects were later released, and the suspect alone was indicted for manslaughter, after traces of his DNA were found on the stone.
In May 2019, the Lod District Court decided to release him to house arrest at his grandparents’ house, overruling an appeal by the state prosecution. Justice Ido Droyan-Gamliel has now acceded to the youth’s lawyers’ request, allowing his transfer to his own home, based also on a recommendation by probation services. Attorneys Ariel Atari and Adi Keidar argued that the minor had abided by his detention conditions for a year and that his case would be under review for a long time, placing a heavy burden on his grandparents.
The judge also accepted the attorneys’ argument that the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba, where he currently resides, was just as close to his yeshiva in Rehelim – where there were concerns about radicalization – as his home in the settlement. “One could say that the Land of Israel – until the coming of the Messiah, at which point it would expand around the entire world – is not that big,” the judge wrote. “One could say it was rather small. Driving distances between the relevant locations are not great.”
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State prosecutors objected to returning the suspect to the settlement, arguing that removing him from the West Bank was part of their objective, and that his return would enable him to link up with extremist elements. They also argued that his conduct under house arrest in Kfar Saba was not indicative of his conduct once allowed to return to a “problematic area.” Probation services were not presented with the opinion of the security service regarding the risks. A document presented to the court by the Shin Bet opposed returning the adolescent to his home.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that even the Shin Bet agreed that Kokhav Hashahar was a quiet, normal community. The problem lies in adjacent communities, which are more extreme, wrote the judge, adding that since the young man could be surrounded by a “sterile bubble,” with electronic monitoring and family supervision, and since the extremist outposts are outside his settlement, the objections to his return were mitigated. The judge did deny a recommendation by the probation service to reduce the number of people monitoring the youth.