US to ‘prioritize’ ending Israeli demolitions of terrorists’ homes

Montasir Shalabi, a US citizen whose home was just demolished by the IDF, was accused of killing a yeshiva student in a drive-by shooting.

By World Israel News Staff

The U.S. will make a “priority” of ending Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of terrorists, a State Department spokesman said on Thursday, hours after the IDF razed a terror suspect’s house.

On Thursday, the IDF razed the home of Montasser Shalabi. The 44-year-old is accused of opening fire on a group of teenagers at the Tapuach Junction in Samaria in May. Yehuda Guetta, a 19-year-old yeshiva was killed in the drive by shooting and two others were injured.

“We attach a good deal of priority to this, knowing that the home of an entire family shouldn’t be demolished for the action of one individual,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that the U.S. would continue to voice its concerns “as long as this practice continues.”

“There is a critical need to lower the temperature in the West Bank. Punitive demolitions exacerbate tensions at a time when everyone should be focused on principally ensuring calm,” Price said.

The demolished property in the village of Turmus Ayya, near Ramallah was the home of Shalabi’s estranged wife and three children. Prosecutors said that although Shalabi did not live there, he was the legal owner of the house. 

Shalabi and his family have U.S. citizenship, which would explain the Biden administration’s heightened attention.  The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem criticized the demolition.

Last week, the High Court of Justice threw out a petition against the razing.

But in a further wrinkle, Israel’s Channel 13 News reported that the demolition created friction between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

According to the report, Lapid learned of the demolition afterwards and maintains he could have worked in advance to soften Washington’s criticisms.

Previous U.S. administrations never clashed with Israel over the home demolitions. Palestinians describe the demolitions as collective punishment while Israeli officials say they deter terrorism. 

After Israel’s new government was sworn in, Lapid and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pledged to reset U.S.-Israel ties. This included understandings of “no surprises” and criticisms not being aired publicly.