Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu armed security forces and police with several new legal tools on Wednesday designed to enable them to stamp out radical nationalist attacks.

The new measures included the immediate issuing of administrative arrest warrants for suspects, trying them in military courts in place of the civilian justice system, and increasing the number of restraining orders banning suspects from flash points in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

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The steps were put forward by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahronovitch and Justicer Minister Yaakov Ne'eman, after they met with representatives from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), police, prosecutors, and the army. The ministers also called for greater resources to be made available for investigations.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) joined several police investigations into far-right arson and vandalism attacks across the country, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

The agency's increased involvement underlines growing concerns over the lack of intelligence which has so far prevented law enforcement from moving to stop the succession of attacks before they occur.

"The Shin Bet is working with local and national police districts on the investigations. Coordination between police and the Shin Bet will continue to expand in the coming days," Rosenfeld said.

Despite the sweeping changes, Netanyahu rejected a call by the ministers to categorize far-right elements as terrorist organizations.

"Anyone who raises a hand on IDF soldiers or police officers will be severely punished," Netanyahu said. The prime minister called for far-right rioters to be treated by security forces in the same manner as Palestinian rioters and anarchists in the West Bank village of Bi'lin, the scene of weekly riots.

He added that the number of far-right suspects is small, and that they did not represent the majority of settlers in the West Bank "who are loyal to the state and its laws." Earlier on Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak backed calls to label the suspects as terrorists. "As far as their [ultra nationalists'] behavior is concerned, there is no doubt that we are talking about terrorists," he told Army Radio.

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) criticized the idea, saying that the "hilltop youth" are not a structured organization that can be prosecuted.

"Any attempt to define an amorphous group as a terrorist organization will lead to repeated and continuous harassment of innocent residents of Judea and Samaria," he said.

Ariel advised the public security minister to enforce existing laws instead of "seeking out headlines with unrealistic plans."


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