The Knesset held a special meeting on Tuesday in honour of former minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who was assassinated in 2001 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Ze’evi was notorious for his far-right nationalist, and anti-Arab, views, including his support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip which he referred to as “transfer”.
Speaking at the session on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Ze’evi’s “great actions” and “clear Zionist vision”, saying that nothing can “erase his contributions to the struggle to establish the state and ensure its security”.
Opposition politician Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Camp also took part in the meeting. Noting his criticism of some of Ze’evi’s views, Herzog nonetheless praised the controversial former general’s commitment to Israel’s “security”, adding: “His contribution in this regard will forever be remembered, and it will accompany the State of Israel in its struggle against those who seek to harm it.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, meanwhile, said Ze’evi was “a man who devoted his entire life to the defence of the homeland”, describing him as “among an elite group of people who grew hand-in-hand with the State of Israel, who paved its way with their spirit and in their work.”
Ze’evi moved from the army into politics in the 1970s, going on to establish the Moledet (Homeland) party. Uniting with another small nationalist faction, Herut, to form the National Union, Ze’evi became a minister in Ariel Sharon’s 2001 government.
At the time, the Guardian noted that Ze’evi wanted millions of Palestinians “expelled from the West Bank and Gaza Strip”, and thought “that Israel’s 1m Arab citizens should not be allowed to vote, because they do not serve in the army”.
Ze’evi believed that the “transfer” “could be accomplished by making the lives of Palestinians so miserable they would relocate”, and during a war “could be carried out by force”.
In April 2016, an Israeli TV show “portrayed [Ze’evi] as a sexual predator, associate of organised crime, violent antagonist of journalists – and even as a cold-blooded killer”.