Haim Drukman, Israeli settlement leader, dies

JERUSALEM (HPD) — Haim Drukman, a prominent rabbi and one of the founders of Israel’s settlement movement, has died. He was 90 years old.

Drukman was a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement in Israel and a leading advocate of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula after Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war.

He was hospitalized earlier this month at Hadassah Jerusalem Medical Center, which confirmed his death Sunday night. He did not reveal the cause.

He served several terms as a member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, with the forerunner of today’s Religious Zionism party, which is a key ally of prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. He long served as the spiritual leader of Israel’s far-right religious nationalist politicians.

Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that with Drukman’s death “a great light of Israel’s love was extinguished.”

Drukman called for the annexation of the occupied West Bank and its approximately 2.5 million Palestinian inhabitants living under Israeli occupation along with some 500,000 Jewish settlers. Palestinians seek the territory, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, as a future independent state, while most of the international community views Israeli settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

He called on Israeli soldiers to reject orders to dismantle settlements during Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and made similar comments about Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In 2012, Drukman received the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian honor, for lifetime achievement.

His remains will be buried Monday in a cemetery near his hometown in southern Israel.

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