netanyahu visits gay center 248.88.
(photo credit: GPO)
Saturday's fatal shooting attack at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv bears all the markings of a terror attack, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday during a visit to the scene of the incident.
Netanyahu said that while all murders were shocking, Saturday night's killings were particularly so.
"The idea of someone entering a youth club and beginning to commit serial murder - it bears the markings of a terror attack," he said.
The premier said he believed stereotyping and denigrating people was wrong and unacceptable.
"We are all created in God's image. We all have fundamental rights, the first of which is to be treated with respect by others and give [them] the same respect," he said.
"Anyone who has suffered from baseless hatred, as an individual or in a group, knows how painful and unacceptable it is. This is something we must uproot from society as much as possible," he added. "I think Israeli society has made progress toward tolerance, and I hope and feel certain that we can make further progress."
Netanyahu told those assembled that police had his full support in their efforts to capture the perpetrator and bring him to trial.
"We need to do this, and we must bring security back into our lives," he declared. "This is not just a blow to the gay-lesbian community. This is a blow to all Israeli youth and Israeli society."
At the center, Netanyahu met with Yaniv Weizmann, head of the Gay Youth Organization, and other leaders of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. Weizmann later expressed satisfaction with the prime minister's attitude during the meeting, which was closed to the media.
"The days to come will not be like days past," he said. "The prime minister expressed his solidarity. The prime minister's message is very clear; it's a message of support for the community."
Weizmann added that "we expect a ministerial committee to convene [on the subject; we want, first of all,] full equality for members of the community... Secondly, it's all about education, education, education; stopping homophobia. Thirdly, there's the issue of incitement. It is absurd that there are ministers and members of Knesset in Netanyahu's administration who defame the community.
"We asked the prime minister to refer to the attack as a terror attack," he went on. "It was a very positive meeting, the prime minister gave us his full support."
Earlier in the day, police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) personnel cordoned off streets for a radius of several hundred meters from the club to secure the visit.
Roadblocks were set up to prevent photographers from documenting the prime minister's arrival.
Netanyahu had been pressed to visit the locale for several days. On Thursday morning, his office conditioned the visit on it being closed off to the media.
Tel Aviv police were reportedly asked to obscure the precise time of his arrival so that media outlets would not be able to report it.
Netanyahu was accompanied by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. During the visit, the prime minister met with one of the boys wounded in the attack, as well as with the boy's mother.
On Saturday, the gay community will hold a solidarity vigil, set to take place in the city's Kikar Rabin.
President Shimon Peres, Sa'ar, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who is gay, will all speak at the event.
Several musicians will perform at the gathering, including Rita, Dana International, Ninette Tayeb, Amir Fay Guttman, Keren Peles, Corinne Alal, and Ivri Lider.
The vigil will be led by Gal Uchovsky, a gay film producer and TV personality.