Aug 11, 2022
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Mk Itamar Ben Gvir, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, posted a video to his Facebook page showing two armed soldiers at the Gush Etzion Junction with their weapons at the ready, backing away from an older Arab woman who was approaching them with a drawn knife. As per the rules of engagement incumbent upon IDF soldiers, they called out a warning before firing a warning shot in the air. The shouted warnings continued while the woman continued to advance. Finally, the soldiers shot her, wounding her, also as per the rules of engagement.

“When a terrorist with a knife approaches a soldier, she should be shot,” Ben Gvir wrote. Do not wait, do not shout or shoot in the air. Shoot to kill. 

“The procedure for opening fire in the dissolute state of Israel is illogical and mostly immoral,  “These righteous soldiers are not to blame. The interpretation of the existing procedure is very broad and can be adapted to different interpretations. When a terrorist with a knife approaches a soldier, she should be shot. Do not wait, do not shout or shoot in the air. Shoot to kill. I will work in the Knesset to change the procedure for opening fire. It’s time to support our soldiers.”

Ben Gvir vowed to work to change the law by citing a Biblical principle: הבא להורגך השכם להורגו (If someone is coming to kill you, hurry to kill him). In Halacha (Torah law), this is referred to as דין רודף (Din Rodef, the law of the pursuer). This is learned from a verse in Numbers:

“Assail the Midianites and defeat them, for they assailed you by the trickery they practiced against you”  Numbers 25:17

The Midrash on that verse cites the phrase, “If someone is coming to kill you, hurry to kill him” as the basis of God’s command.

Itamar Ben Gvir (Photo via Flash90)

Ben Gvir’s application of this Biblical principle certainly seems relevant and was used by PM Netanyahu in 2019 to justify acting against Iranian forces operating in Syria.

This principle is also implicit in the Biblical prohibition against murder included in the Seven Noahide Laws incumbent upon all of mankind that is learned from Genesis:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed; For in His image Did Hashem make man. Genesis 9:6

Ben Gvir’s party, Otzma Yehudit, has long had as part of its platform reforming the IDF rules of engagement. Their 2019 campaign featured a video depicting a soldier in reserve duty being approached by a man in a keffiyeh with a knife in his hand. The soldier lifted his gun to shoot but was stopped by a member of the IDF legal division who began to measure the distance between the soldier and the terrorist.

Though the party was formed in 2012 and has run in every election since, Ben Gvir is the first member of the party to win a seat in the Knesset. In his opening speech addressing the plenum, Ben Gvir lamented the hesitancy of the Israeli government to assert full sovereignty over Jerusalem and more specifically; the Temple Mount saying: “I will act to ensure that Israeli control returns to Jerusalem and to the Temple Mount specifically.”