Senior Israeli leaders in the coalition government said the violence not only increased tensions but also signaled that Israel does not have a partner for peace. Some Israeli lawmakers said no more Palestinian prisoners should be released, one of the preconditions agreed to by Israel to get negotiations with the West Bank government going.
Nadal Amar, a 42-year-old Palestinian from the village of Beit Amin, is accused of killing air force Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, on Friday with the idea of trading his corpse with Israeli authorities in exchange for the release of his brother, Nur al-Din Amar, who has been imprisoned in Israel since 2003 for his involvement in the planning of several attacks.
The soldier killed Sunday, 1st Sgt. Gabriel Koby, 20, from Tirat Carmel, near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, was manning a military post that guards a Jewish settlement in the ancient quarter of Hebron, adjacent to the holy site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. It is a popular pilgrimage site for Jews during the Sukkot holiday, which is going on. Such Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered by Palestinians and much of the world to be illegal under international law, and the one in Hebron has been especially volatile.
“Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, our partner has not changed,” declared Israeli Minister of Economy and Commerce Naftali Bennett on his Facebook page Saturday night, after details of the first slaying emerged. “We cannot make peace with terrorists who throw the bodies of soldiers into pits; we must fight them without mercy.”
The Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization was signed at the White House 20 years ago this month. It called for limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from those areas.
Instead of attempting to make peace, Bennett wrote, he would focus on trying to “strengthen the security forces and the Shin Bet,” the Israeli security service, to prevent any further incidents.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told Christian lawmakers at an Israeli Allies Foundation conference Sunday, “We will bury a soldier who was murdered by a Palestinian so his body could be traded and a terrorist could be released,” according to an account in the Jerusalem Post.
Yaalon called the negotiations brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry “another political process our allies think will bring peace.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who wrote an op-ed published Friday in the New York Times that called for Israel to annul the Oslo Accords, accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence.
“Incitement of the Palestinian leadership continues 20 years after Oslo,” he said.
“The murder of soldier Tomer Hazan is a terrible reminder of what Israel faces every day dealing with murderous animal-like terrorists,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid posted on Facebook, adding that Israel could rely only on itself for security.
Killing a co-worker
According to an Israeli army spokeswoman, Lt. Libby Weiss, Amar and Hazan had worked together at a restaurant in the Israeli coastal town of Bat Yam.
On Friday morning, Amar invited Hazan to travel with him to his home town of Beit Amin. Later Friday, Shin Bet received word that Hazan had not been in touch with his family.
Intelligence information led to Amar, who was caught Saturday, and then to the body, Weiss said.
Amar’s distraught father told reporters that his son should be shot for the crime, but he begged for other family members to be released.
On Saturday night and Sunday, protesters gathered outside the Tzachi Meats restaurant in Bat Yam, where Amar and Hazan had worked together, according to TV news reports. The protesters chanted “Death to Arabs” and called for the town, which sits just south of Tel Aviv, to be Jewish-only.
Amar’s wife and daughters, interviewed by the Israeli news outlet Ynet, said they were surprised by his actions and described him as a “quiet, civilized and understanding person.” Amar’s wife said that he had not shared his plans with her and that they had not lived together as a family for two years.
Last month, Israeli security forces fatally shot three Palestinians during a clash at a refugee camp south of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank. Israeli officials said protesters were throwing deadly objects at soldiers; Palestinian Authority leaders said that the Israeli military provoked the attack by staging a raid during daylight hours and that it could derail the peace talks.