JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Arab-Israeli lawmaker from the Zionist Union party who refused to characterize a Palestinian assailant as a terrorist has come under fire from politicians in the government coalition and his own party.
Zuheir Bahloul in an interview with Army Radio doubled down Thursday on statements he had made earlier in the week.
“Everyone who fights for his freedom and independence is a terrorist in Israelis’ eyes,” Bahloul said. “In the eyes of the people, every Palestinian who fights to remove the injustices of the occupation is considered a terrorist. … That word becomes too inclusive and turns every Palestinian into a terrorist.
“I agree that the stabber is a murderer, but he is not a terrorist,” he added.
His remarks came as part of a discussion of last week’s shooting in the head by an Israeli soldier of a Palestinian man who stabbed Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Hebron. The soldier, who maintains that he thought the downed Palestinian assailant was still a danger to the soldiers, has been charged with manslaughter.
Zionist Union head and opposition leader Isaac Herzog distanced his party from Bahloul’s remarks.
“The Zionist Union’s position is that a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist, and it does not matter if he wanted to kill Jews or Arabs,” Herzog wrote in a Facebook post.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the lawmaker’s remarks.
“IDF soldiers protect us with their bodies from bloodthirsty murderers. I expect all citizens of Israel, and especially Knesset members, to give them full support,” he said in a post on Facebook.