Pioneer of Israeli Settler Movement Hanan Porat Dies at 67

Netanyahu pays tribute to the driving force behind Israel's settlement of the West Bank, who died Monday of cancer.

Hanan Porat, one of the first leaders of the Israeli settler movement, died Monday of cancer at the age of 67.

Porat, a former lawmaker, was a founder of the now-defunct movement Gush Emunim (Hebrew for "the bloc of the faithful") a messianic movement committed to settling land Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Movement disciples believe God promised the West Bank to the Jewish people, and they set out to cement Israeli sovereignty there by creating a large-scale civilian presence.

Even before Gush Emunim was founded in 1974, Porat was a leading figure in the settlement movement launched after Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967. He helped establish Kfar Etzion, the first settlement in the West Bank, on the site of a kibbutz that had been captured by the Jordanian army in 1948.

Porat later helped create the Jewish enclave in the biblical city of Hebron, which is currently one of the most radical settlements. Hebron's ancient Jewish community was driven out after an Arab massacre in 1929.

In later years, Porat turned to politics, and was elected to the Knesset in 1981. He served as a member of parliament until 1999, save for a four-year hiatus from 1984-88.

Porat came under criticism in 1994 after American-Israeli doctor Baruch Goldstein shot dead 29 Muslims and wounded more than 100 others at a mosque in Hebron. Porat replied with "Happy Purim!" to a reporter's  question about what he thought of the massacre. He later claimed his comments had been taken out of context.

Porat strongly opposed Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but seemed to have softened his stance in later years. In 2010, he said that it was time for Israel "to present a political alternative, one without hatred toward Arabs and with no attempts to deport or hurt them." Yet he added that all sides must understand that "this is our home, between the Jordan River and the [Mediterranean] Sea, and in this home there will be no other national entity."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid tribute to Porat on Tuesday, calling him an example for other Israelis and whose contributions to the country "will yet be told."

"Hanan Porat dedicated his life to building up the Land of Israel, and to educating generations of students about religious Zionism and loving the Land of Israel and the Jewish People," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office. "His contributions to building up the Land and to its communities, to education and to leading the nation according to Zionist principles, are examples to Israelis.

"I first met Hanan almost 40 years ago and was immediately impressed by his Zionist fervor and his deep commitment to restoring the Jewish People to its Land. This fervor did not lessen and accompanied him until his last day. His contributions to institutions, individuals and to educating the younger generation will yet be told."

Porat is survived by his wife, Rachel, four children and grandchildren. The details of his funeral have not yet been announced.