Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu provided security forces and police with
several new legal tools on Wednesday designed to enable them to stamp out
radical nationalist attacks.
According to one of the recommendations
Netanyahu accepted a day after the vandalism and rock-throwing incident at an
IDF base, Jews rioting in the West Bank will now be tried in military courts
IDF worried about settler informants in its ranks
Right-wing extremists attack IDF base in West Bank
Arson, 'price tag' suspected at J'lem mosque
The move was immediately criticized by both members of
the settler movement and left-wing groups such as B’Tselem, who claimed that
such measures stripped the national radicals of the democratic right to due
process afforded all other citizens.
The prime minister, moving swiftly
to develop a more aggressive “tool box” to be used against so-called “price-tag”
rioters in the West Bank, declared that “those who raise a hand against IDF
soldiers or Israel Police personnel will be punished severely.”
likened the rioters at the Ephraim Brigade army base to the Palestinian and
left-wing extremists who clash regularly with the IDF at Bil’in over the security
Netanyahu did, however, stop short of labeling the
price-tag extremists terrorists, saying that in his eyes they were more
anarchists than terrorists. This distinction ran contrary to comments from some
members if his cabinet, such as Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon and
Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, who referred to what happened on
Tuesday as terrorism.
The distinction is not only a linguistic one, but
also has legal implications, such as regarding the ability to block bank
Netanyahu took pains, as he had the day before, not to paint
the entire settlement enterprise with the brush of extremism.
important to me to emphasize that this is a small group that does not represent
the public that lives in Judea and Samaria, who are loyal to the state and its
laws and who condemn the rioting,” he said.
Netanyahu had convened an
urgent meeting of top security and justice officials on Tuesday, immediately
after the incident at the IDF base, to come up with recommendations for dealing
with the surge of right-wing violence that has been given the name “pricetag”
attacks because they are generally carried out in response to – or as a “price”
exacted for – government action against the illegal settlement
On Wednesday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman formulated the recommendations, after meeting
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 new steps include:
issuing administrative detention orders against rioters.
• increasing the
number of Jews barred from entering the West Bank.
• giving the IDF the
authority to detain Jewish rioters, and not having to wait for the police to do
• adding investigation teams from the Shin Bet, police, IDF and State
Attorney’s Office to deal with these incidents.
The Shin Bet has joined
several police investigations into farright arson and vandalism attacks across
the country, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post on
The agency’s increased involvement underlines growing concerns
over the lack of intelligence, which has prevented law enforcement from moving
to stop the attacks before they occur.
“The Shin Bet is working with
local and national police districts on the investigations.
between police and the Shin Bet will continue to expand in the coming days,”
Earlier on Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak backed
calls to label the suspects terrorists.
“As far as [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” were not a structured organization that could be
“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.”
On Wednesday, MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor)
said the IDF should have shot at the activists who attacked soldiers earlier
“The gang of criminals took a brick, threw it at an officer’s
head and almost killed him,” he said during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee meeting with the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate,
Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai.
“Too bad the IDF didn’t arrest anyone; too bad
they didn’t shoot; too bad they didn’t react,” Ben-Eliezer declared.
former defense minister said that if someone tried to kill an IDF soldier, it
shouldn’t matter whether the person was Jewish or Arab.
“Whoever comes to
kill you – kill him first. This is terrorism. I was witness to such terrorism in
1995, which ended in a prime minister being killed,” he said, referring to the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. “If I were [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu],
I would be very concerned.”
The Labor lawmaker called for a “lethal
reaction” from the IDF and Shin Bet to stop the price tag phenomenon.
Arye Eldad (National Union) responded by saying that there were clearly too many
crazy people and that the IDF must stop price-tag activists from harming
soldiers and innocent Arabs. However, he said, some sanity must be brought into
“Jews shouldn’t throw rocks at IDF soldiers, and IDF
soldiers shouldn’t, God forbid, shoot at Jews,” he said. “Whoever calls to shoot
settlers is trying to light a fire in the hope that he can build his future on
Other lawmakers in the National Union, the party most
identified with settlers, also slammed Ben-Eliezer for his remarks, with MK
Michael Ben- Ari saying this was “yet another sign of insanity from the
Ariel said the Labor legislators’ words were
“blatant incitement,” and called for him to take back what he’d
However, he added that the IDF and the police must work to
implement the law and put the attackers on trial.
Later, in an interview
with Israel Radio, Ben-Eliezer clarified that most of the settlers, who were
loyal to the law and served in the IDF, should be the “eyes and ears” of the
state in the West Bank, and should not be afraid to raise their voices to stop
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz
(Kadima) opened his committee’s meeting by criticizing the violence against
soldiers, saying that the committee would defend them and ensure that those who
tried to harm them would be stopped.
The Kadima MK asserted that
price-tag attacks endangered democracy and the rule of law, as well as IDF
soldiers and officers, and that the small group of rioters must be
“I call on the prime minister: The time for condemnation is
over. Now is the time for action,” Mofaz said. “Put an end to this criminal,
Later on Wednesday, Intelligence Agencies Minister
Dan Meridor said that the “wild, violent attack is not the first time red lines
have been crossed.”
Responding to a question in the Knesset plenum,
Meridor explained that the attacks had begun under the “strange name ‘price
tag,’” with the explanation that they were only aimed at Palestinians and were
just a matter of political opinion.
“Now, it’s come to harming our
soldiers, raising a hand to our army and our police and challenging the state,”
He urged that the perpetrators be “punished to the full extent
of the law,” adding, “We must stop this fire – it may only burn the edges of
society now, but it could burn us all.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni
(Kadima) pointed to the defacement of a mosque in Jerusalem on Wednesday – an
incident she called “a hate crime” – as part of the same wave of violence that
led activists to throw rocks at IDF officers on Tuesday.
“This isn’t a
small group. It’s a group of Israeli extremists that is constantly growing and
trying to forcefully turn Israel into a different country – a country in their
extreme, nationalist and violent image, without laws and courts, and Judaism is
twisted,” she said.
Livni called for “the Zionist majority to take back
the country, and prove that some lines can’t be crossed.”
She also said
the government must arrest all of those involved in this week’s incidents and
punish them harshly, and that it should continue evacuating illegal outposts to
show that the law was enforced.
Meanwhile, settlers received a show of
support Wednesday from an unusual source: B’Tselem – The Israeli Information
Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Among the issues on
which the group has focused is IDF infringement on Palestinian
However, B’Tselem spokesman Sarit Michaeli declared that stopping
settler violence should not come at the expense of the human rights of Israeli
West Bank residents.
In particular, she rejected calls to classify
perpetrators of the price-tag attacks as terrorists.
Similarly, she said,
she strongly objected to Netanyahu’s decision to make use of administrative
detention orders against them or to try them in military court.
rights to due process should not be denied, she asserted.
The IDF and the
Border Police have not done a good enough job in upholding the rule of law in
the West Bank, continued Michaeli. “What we would like to see is real law
enforcement and not draconic measures that would restrict settler rights,” she
Peace Now also disapproved of Netanyahu’s announcement.
executive director, Yariv Oppenheimer, charged that law enforcement changes were
“cosmetic” and would not change much on the ground.
stop fearing right-wing violence and should instead evacuate the outposts that
have become a home for the hilltop youth,” he said.
wanted to know if Netanyahu planned to use these same measures against Israeli
left-wing activists who participated in West Bank demonstrations against the
Settlers and right-wing attorneys also objected strongly to the use
of administrative detention and military courts.
The Legal Forum for the
Land of Israel warned that changing the rules of the game only for certain
citizens opened the door to dictatorship and would be a nightmare for those who
cherished human rights.
“Criminals should be investigated and brought to
justice,” it said, but not through “draconian measures that bankrupt
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of
Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said, “The struggle against the violence is
of the utmost importance. However, there is no doubt that the basic democratic
rules of the game should be kept.”
There was “no real alternative to
indictments and trials,” Dayan said.Michael Omer-Man contributed to this