In a controversial move that has sparked outrage and condemnation, 14 lawmakers from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition have called for the easing of prison conditions for Amiram Ben Uliel, a Jewish terrorist convicted of a heinous attack in the West Bank in 2015.
A Grisly Crime
Ben Uliel was found guilty in 2020 of three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, arson, and conspiring to commit a racially motivated crime as part of a terrorist act. He had carried out a deadly firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, resulting in the tragic deaths of Riham and Saad Dawabsha and their 18-month-old son, Ali Saad. Only the couple’s elder son, Ahmed, survived the attack but sustained extensive burns. The brutality of the attack had sparked international outrage at the time.
The 14 lawmakers, representing various parties including Likud, Jewish Power party, Religious Zionism, United Torah Judaism, and Shas, penned a letter to Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, requesting that Ben Uliel be moved out of solitary confinement to a prison wing for religious convicts, which is considered to offer better conditions. They urged that this move remain in effect “for at least” the upcoming Jewish High Holidays, scheduled this year from Friday at sundown through the first week of October.
The signatories of the letter include prominent Likud lawmakers Nissim Vaturi, Tally Gotliv, Keti Shitrit, Ariel Kallner, Eliyahu Revivo, Etty Atia, Avichay Buaron, and Amit Halevy. Additionally, members of Otzma Yehudit, United Torah Judaism, Religious Zionism, and Shas also supported the request.
This move by the lawmakers is believed to be deeply troubling and undermines the rule of law. The firebombing of the Dawabsha family was considered one of the most heinous acts of Jewish terror in recent years and had led to official promises to crack down on Jewish extremism in the West Bank. However, Jewish terrorists still act with impunity, particularly under the current hard-right government.
Settler Violence in the West Bank
The incident also sheds light on the ongoing issue of settler violence in the West Bank. According to Al Jazeera, between 2010 and 2019, nearly 3,000 Israeli settler attacks killed at least 22 Palestinians and injured over 1,200 others across the occupied West Bank. These attacks ranged from physical assaults and stone-throwing to vandalism, arson, shootings, and stabbings, often targeting Palestinian homes, cars, farms, and mosques.
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported that in 2020, there were 771 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians, marking a 78 percent increase from the previous year. In many cases, the Israeli occupation failed to hold the perpetrators accountable. Some instances even suggested collusion or enablement of settler violence by the Israeli occupation forces.
Influence of Israeli Politicians
The settler violence has also been fueled by the political support and encouragement from some Israeli politicians, especially from the right-wing parties that are part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. For instance, Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli finance minister who also handles civil administration in the occupied West Bank, said Huwara should be “wiped out.” Smotrich is also one of the signatories of a letter that demanded better prison conditions for Amiram Ben Uliel.
Settler violence is typically driven by ideological or religious motivations, aimed at expanding Israeli presence and control over the West Bank. Jewish extremists advocate for the expulsion or elimination of Palestinians from the region.