Israel to give its highest honor to settler leader

March 16, 2017 GMT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel is awarding its highest honor to the founder of a Jewish settler group that the Obama administration had condemned for stoking Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Israel’s pro-settler education minister, Naftali Bennett, announced Thursday that Elad Foundation founder David “David’le” Beeri is being awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

Elad has come under criticism for settling Jewish nationalists in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The foundation says the areas are central to Jewish heritage.

In 2014, then-White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned the purchase of 25 apartment units in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, a settler takeover that Elad helped oversee.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat lauded Beeri as “a man of vision as he is a man of action.”