Netanyahu reaches out to Palestinians, calls for calm following official’s death

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the Palestinian Authority that Israel will investigate the death of a Palestinian official and called for calm.

Netanyahu sent the message via his personal representative and peace negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, on Wednesday evening in response to the death of Ziad Abu Ein that afternoon following a confrontation with Israeli soldiers during a West Bank protest.


The prime minister held security consultations throughout the day in the wake of the death. Abu Ein headed the committee against Israel’s security fence and settlements and was a member of the Fatah party’s Revolutionary Council.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in a statement expressed “sorrow” over Abu Ein’s passing and said the incident was under investigation by the Israel Defense Forces.

“Security stability is important to both sides and we will continue coordination with the P.A.,” he said.

A P.A. political official earlier said it would cease all security coordination with Israel in response to Abu Ein’s death.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas held an emergency meeting on Wednesday in Ramallah of Palestinian officials and said, “All options are open for discussion and implementation” of a response to Abu Ein’s death.

Abu Ein, 55, died in the village of Turmusiya, near Ramallah, amid a protest by dozens of local residents and activists over the Jewish settlement outpost Adei Ad. The protesters planted olive trees on land that they believe is in danger of being confiscated by Israel.

Palestinian officials said Abu Ein he was beaten by Israeli soldiers, while a video of the incident circulating on social media shows Abu Ein striking an Israeli officer who then pushes him away.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday called for “swift and transparent investigation” into the death. European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini also called for an “immediate, independent investigation,” echoed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who also called on both sides to avoid escalation.

Abu Ein previously served as undersecretary to the minister of prisoner affairs. After being sentenced in 1982 to life in prison for a 1979 bombing that killed two Israeli teens, Abu Ein was released during a 1985 prisoner swap.