BBC News
January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli police have arrested a rabbi on suspicion of involvement in an arson attack on a mosque last month. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the head of a Jewish seminary in the settlement of Yitzhar, was arrested after he refused to co-operate, police said.

Mr Shapira denies any involvement in the attack, his lawyer was quoted in the Israeli media as saying. Attackers burned the mosque's carpet and a shelf of Qurans, and wrote slogans in Hebrew on the floor.

Police arrested some students from the seminary, the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva earlier this month, saying they wanted to investigate whether they were involved in the mosque attack. Security sources said Rabbi Shapira was "suspected of involvement in an attempt to set fire to a mosque".

Rabbi Shapira's lawyer told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahranot that his client "denies any connection to the event". He was not co-operating with his investigators "in light of the Israel police's conduct and their treatment of rabbis recently," he said.

Rabbi Shapira published a controversial book last year which includes discussion of interpretations of the circumstances under which Jewish law permits Jews to kill non-Jews. There have been protests by seminary students and a right-wing member of the Knesset outside the police station where he is being held.

The yeshiva said in a statement that he had been arrested "because of suspicion of not preventing the crime of torching a little carpet near a mosque". It said the institution's spirit would not be broken by what it called "an alienated and frightened regime," in reference to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu has ordered a 10-month lull in permits for new settlement homes in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem. The order followed US and Palestinian calls for a total freeze in settlement building. Palestinian officials have refused to rejoin peace talks until a total freeze is imposed.
Some hard-line settlers say they will attack Palestinians in retaliation for any Israeli government measure they see as threatening Jewish settlements.

It is a policy they call the "price tag". All Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this


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