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JERUSALEM (AP) — Haim Drukman, a prominent rabbi who was one of the founders of Israel's settlement movement, has died. He was 90.

  Haim Drukman, leader of Israeli settler movement, dies at 90 © Provided by The Canadian Press

Drukman was a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement in Israel, and a major proponent of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula after Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Mideast war.

He was hospitalized earlier this month at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, which confirmed his death late on Sunday. It did not provide a cause. Israeli media reported that he died of complications of the coronavirus.

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

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

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

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While most of the world opposes Israeli settlements, they have broad support among Israeli leaders.

He called on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to dismantle settlements during Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and made similar remarks about Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Drukman advocated that Jewish religious law govern the state of Israel, a position shared by his followers.

“There’s no problem whatsoever with a state run by Jewish religious law,” he told Israel Hayom in one of his final interviews last month. “What you do in your home is your business, but outside — this is a Jewish state.”

Drukman was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest civil honor, for lifetime achievement in 2012.

Drukman was laid to rest on Monday at a cemetery near his hometown in southern Israel. His funeral was attended by thousands, including Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog and other dignitaries.

The Associated Press

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