Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that he has instructed the Defense Ministry to examine the possibility of recognizing the West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad as a permanent settlement, after a drive-by shooting killed one of its residents.
Rabbi Raziel Shevach was driving home on Route 60 on Tuesday when terrorists shot at least 22 bullets at his car and escaped. Shevach, the father of six children, was rushed to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba in critical condition and was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
“Security forces are pursuing the terrorists who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach, may God avenge his blood,” Liberman said in a statement. “I feel the pain and sorrow of his wife, Yael, and his six children. I have instructed the heads of the Defense Ministry to assist the family and the residents of Havat Gilad.
“At the same time, I instructed the ministry to examine the arrangement of Havat Gilad outpost and its transformation into a permanent settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Liberman added.
Havat Gilad was established in 2002 on land purchased by Moshe Zar in memory of his son Gilad Zar, the security coordinator of the Samaria Regional Council who was killed in a drive-by shooting attack in the same area in 2001. While dozens of families live in the outpost, none of the homes were built with permits, and past attempts to evacuate the outpost have been met with clashes. Several illegal structures have been demolished by the IDF, only to be rebuilt by residents.
Shevach was the first to be buried in Havat Gilad, which does not have a cemetery. Despite the lack of official approval by the IDF or the government, Shevach was buried in a plot dug for him on the hilltop.
Several right-wing lawmakers echoed Liberman’s comments, demanding that the government recognize the outpost, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who spoke at Shevach’s funeral.
“You are the pioneers of Havat Gilad, the real heroes who are holding onto the land and building our country. Our enemies think they could make us abandon the land. We crush their hopes by becoming stronger, building communities and having children. You are doing your duty. Now it is the politicians’ turn to do ours,” he said.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked took to Twitter, saying that Shevach’s murder, “May God avenge his blood, will not be left without a response. Our answer will be to legalize the community of Havat Gilad.
“Simultaneously, it is important to approve construction throughout Judea and Samaria,” she added. “They wish to uproot, we will build. The Palestinian Authority encourages and funds terrorists; we will make life bloom. The Palestinians will understand that murder of Israelis also hurts them.”
Speaking at Shevach’s funeral, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, berated the government for failing to install security cameras in the area, despite repeated pleas by residents of the Yitzhar settlement for this to be done, and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Liberman to immediately recognize the outpost as a legal settlement.
“At this moment, I must make a difficult statement, but it is my duty to say it. Raziel was murdered on a road on which, despite repeated promises [by the government], security cameras had not yet been installed. If they had been, these vile murderers would have been caught,” he said.
“Mr. Prime Minister, we demand that you fully recognize Havat Gilad as a community in the State of Israel today. Defense minister, we demand that you approve 1,000 housing units... here in Havat Gilad. This is what would decrease motivation for terrorism,” Dagan continued.
On Tuesday, Liberman said that Israel was set to approve the construction of thousands of homes in West Bank settlements.
Liberman said that he will present to the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Subcommittee an immediate construction plan for 1,285 homes for 2018, as well as advance planning for 2,500 other homes in another 20 settlements.