Economics Minister Naftali Bennett has dismissed accusations of "incitement" over his calls for a harsh military response to the kidnap and murder of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel, saying the accusations are politically-motivated and an attempt to force him to back down on his positions.
Taking to Facebook Thursday, Bennett posted a caricature from the far-left publication Haaretz, which portrayed the Jewish Home party head in full army fatigues and wielding a loaded machine gun during a cabinet meeting - a reference to reports he had clashed with other ministers after advocating the strongest possible military response to the murders.
The caption under the picture implied that Bennett's calls contributed to the murder of Mohammed Abu-Khder, an Arab youth abducted and murdered in Jerusalem under unclear circumstances. The caption read: "If the Arab youth was murdered for nationalistic motives, the blood is on Bennett's hands".
Although police have not yet identified a motive for Abu-Khder's murder, some officials hastily labeled it a "revenge attack" by Jewish extremists; Palestinian Authority officials, Hamas and international leaders soon followed suit. Police, however, say the "revenge" motive is still only one of a number of options they are looking into, and have urged people to show "responsibility" in jumping to conclusions.
Bennett responded to accusations that his position amounts to incitement by addressing left-wing commentators with the words "You will not silence us."
"In recent days and in the days to come you will read a lot about 'extremism' and 'irresponsible people'," he went on to say. "Some will use stronger terminology in response to our demands for a powerful response following the difficult events we experienced.
"Their goal: To silence my position.
"It will not work. I will not be silenced, and I have no intention of apologizing," he declared.
"Terrorism has been escalating in recent days," he continued, likely referring to the escalation in rocket attacks against Israeli civilians from Gaza, "and it requires us to return the deterrence of the State of Israel."
"Israel’s deterrence should be carried out by the government, not by any criminal acts of citizens," he stated.
Addressing the murder of Mohammed Abu Khder, Bennett condemned the killing, regardless of its motives, saying "the murder of the boy is a terrible thing, whatever the motives were."
He went on to call for caution over assigning blame for the crime, as "we do not know yet what the background is for the murder."
Nevertheless, he warned "Nobody should take the law into his own hands, ever. We must not learn that from our enemies."