After Terror Attack, Israeli Ministers Call to Legalize West Bank Outpost That Victim Called Home

Slain rabbi to be laid to rest at illegal outpost Havat Gilad ■ Arab lawmaker blasts U.S. ambassador for 'hypocrisy' for calling out Palestinians on terror

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File photo: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the West Bank
File photo: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the West Bank Credit: Olivier Fitouss

Israeli cabinet ministers called Wednesday for the legalization of an illegal West Bank outpost after one of its residents was murdered in a terror attack.

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On Wednesday morning, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot visited the Havat Gilad outpost where Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, a father of six, had been shot to death the night before, hit by bullets fired from a car driving along the West Bank's main route.

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, the victim of a drive-by shooting attack in the West Bank on January 9, 2018.Credit: Courtesy of Rabbi Raziel Shevach's family

Eisenkot was briefed on the attack and ensuing actions by army and Shin Bet security service forces. The actions included a curfew and partial lockdown on Nablus and Palestinian villages in the area amid the efforts to find the shooter or shooters.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was among the politicians who called on Wednesday for the legalization of the wildcat outpost. "The security forces are hunting the terrorists who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach," Lieberman said.

"I feel the intense grief of his wife Yael and his six children," Lieberman said. "I have ordered the heads of the Defense Ministry to help the family and the residents of Havat Gilad. In tandem, I have ordered them to examine how to formalize the status of Havat Gilad and make it a regular settlement in the West Bank."

Havat Gilad is home to about 50 families and is situated near the Palestinian town of Jit, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of Nablus.

Havat Gilad was illegally founded in 2002 following the murder of the settler Gilad Zar, security coordinator of the Shomron Regional Council, who was shot to death the year before. Not one of the buildings in the settlement has a construction permit, and from time to time, its residents find themselves evicted. Even so, the outpost still houses dozens of families.

Israel's answer to Shevach's murder will be to regulate Havat Gilad, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stated on Wednesday, joining the chorus of ministers calling for the settlement's legitimization.

Achieving that would first require the cabinet to formally resolve on establishing a "new settlement," though Havat Gilad is about 16 years old.

A master plan would then need approving by the relevant authorities, and retroactive building permits would be issued, thereby legalizing the illegal homes. In other words, legitimizing Havat Gilad would be a protracted bureaucratic process requiring work at different levels of government.

Responding to the attack, Education Minister Naftali Bennett made similar comments.

Issawi Frej, an Israeli Arab lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz party, blasted the government for looking into legalizing the outpost, saying that "every death is painful, Jewish or Arab, but encouraging outlaws will only lead to more bloodshed."

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also responded to the attack, slamming both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

His comments inspired anger, with Israeli Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi blasting what he called Friedman's "hypocrisy." "Friedman is horrified? I didn't hear him say a word when an Israeli snipper shot a double amputee in Gaza or when the young Mohammad Tamimi was shot in his head.

"It is because of this hypocrisy and double standard, and because of the Trump's administration's positions on the conflict, that the blood shed continues. When these are the representatives of the [U.S.] government, no wonder there is no peace," Tibi said.

Drivers wait as Israeli forces man a roadblock on January 10, 2018 in the area where a 35-year-old Israeli rabbi was killed late the previous day while driving near the wildcat settlement where he livCredit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP

The Israeli army put the West Bank city of Nablus and neighboring villages on partial lockdown Wednesday, setting up roadblocks at all entrances and exits after the terror attack. Palestinian movement was permitted within the villages and locals were allowed to move between them via checkpoints.

The army searched the villages in the area overnight in search of the terrorists behind the shooting attack.

Shevach's funeral took place Wednesday afternoon in Havat Gilad. "He was murdered for being a Jew in the land of Israel," Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council said during his funeral.

His widow, Yael Shevach, said it was always his wish to be buried in the settlement outpost that he and his family called home.

"We decided, together as a family, to bury him in the place he had dedicated himself to," Yael Shevach said. "Raziel said that if something was ever to happen to him, he wanted to be buried in Havat Gilad. We respect his wishes and will bury him in the settlement he loved so much."

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