US slams IDF demolition of terrorist’s home, Bennett pushes back

“The home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual,” read the American statement.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

After the IDF on Thursday morning demolished the home of terrorist Muntasir Shalabi, who shot and killed yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta in April 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Israel released a statement highly critical of the decision.

The statement suggested that home demolitions are an obstacle for peace and derail potential paths to resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are following reports that the home was demolished,” an Embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

“We believe it is critical for all parties to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.

“This certainly includes the punitive demolition of Palestinian homes. As we stated numerous times, the home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual.”

A ‘reset’ for US-Israel relations

The statement comes after public vows from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to strengthen the Israel-U.S. relationship.

Lapid has accused former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of cultivating ties with Republicans at the expense of Democrats, transforming once-bipartisan support for Israel into an issue that splits along party lines.

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“In the past few years, mistakes were made,” Lapid told Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a June meeting in Rome. “Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt. We will fix those mistakes together.”

“I’ll challenge any attempt to make America a partisan political issue in Israel and Israel a partisan political issue in the United States,” Bennett said on Tuesday at a Fourth of July event at the U.S. embassy.

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office responded to the American criticism in a statement.

“The Prime Minister appreciates and respects the U.S. government. At the same time, he acts only in accordance with considerations for the State of Israel’s security, and to protect the lives of Israeli citizens,” the statement read.

World Israel News contacted Lapid’s spokesperson for comment but received no response to date.

American interests

While the IDF regularly demolishes, or partially demolishes, the homes of Palestinian terrorists who have murdered Israeli citizens, Shalabi’s case drew international attention because of his status as a U.S. citizen.

Shalabi immigrated to the U.S. several decades ago, settling in California. He and his family are citizens, and all of his children are American-born.

After experiencing marital difficulties, Shalabi’s wife returned to their hometown of Turmus Ayya, about 20 kilometers north of Ramallah, with three of their seven children.

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Since 2008, she told Haaretz, the couple has been estranged.

She argued that the Shalabi family home should not be demolished because he spent the majority of the year in the U.S. and only visited their town occasionally, did not live in the house, and did not have a stable relationship with his family.

She pointed out that Shalabi has married several other women in the U.S. in Islamic ceremonies that were not recognized by the American government. However, she said that the house had been remodeled from his remittances.

An Israeli government investigation found that the house was registered in his name, had originally belonged to his parents, and that he had spent up to two months every few years in the residence.