In line with a cabinet decision taken last month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
declared price-tag attacks – in which far-right activists vandalize Arab
property and assault Arab civilians – as instances of an unlawful gathering on
Monday, in a bid to provide security forces with a greater range of legal tools
to combat the phenomenon.
The new legal classification will in certain
circumstances allow law enforcement to imprison suspects for longer, deny them
access to lawyers for longer periods of an investigation, allow authorities to
keep suspects in custody until the end of legal proceedings, and seize
The new measures will be at the disposal of law enforcement and
security services in Israel and the West Bank.
“We must wage total war
and display zero tolerance, while utilizing a maximum of means, as they [the
attackers] do not represent the Jewish religion and the values of the State of
Israel, and their actions are criminal in every way,” Ya’alon said.
defense minister held a meeting in Tel Aviv on Monday with representatives from
the Israel Police, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the IDF’s Coordinator of
Government Activities in the Territories, and officials from the legal
During the meeting, officials compared price-tag activities to
those of modern terrorist organizations, saying that like terrorists, the
attackers are driven by ideology, act secretly, and aim to “prevent the
legitimate Israeli government from carrying out political steps involving the
enforcement of the law.”
Far-right activists are also seeking to spread
fear among politicians and prevent them from taking decisions on removing
outposts, the officials said during the meeting.
“This is a grave issue,
in which indiscriminate violence is directed towards Arabs, while their property
is harmed and lives are endangered,” Ya’alon said.
“I rule that this is
an illegal association, with all of the legal implications that stem from that,”
the defense minister added.
“These steps will be directed not only
against those perpetuating the acts on the ground, but also against those
initiating, spreading, and funding the ideology,” the Defense Ministry said in a
The IDF Central Command is set to receive new instructions in
the coming days on how to respond to far-right attacks, Ya’alon
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has become increasingly concerned
by escalating price-tag vandalism.
The prime minister recently signaled a
significant crackdown on price-tag attacks by empowering Israeli security forces
to investigate, detain and interrogate suspects more aggressively, using
measures akin to the handling of Palestinian terrorists.
month’s cabinet decision, the Prime Minister’s Office said the changes “will
significantly strengthen the ability to fight ‘price-tag’ phenomena.” Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni would continue to advance other legislation that would also
deal with the issue, the office said.
Livni, along with Public Security
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, have in the last few months advocated for
classifying price-tag attacks as acts of terror, a decision the cabinet has
refrained from taking.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said in June
that better investigatory police work was needed, and not extra
Meanwhile, an ultra-Orthodox man was arrested Sunday for a
September 2012 price-tag attack on a 19th-century Christian monastery in the
West Bank, allegedly carried out in solidarity with other nationalistic Jewish
settlers, police said Monday.
Graffiti allegedly left on the Latrun
Monastery by the suspect referred to Migron, an unauthorized settler outpost
evacuated by the Israeli government last year. The words “Jesus is a monkey”
were also painted in Hebrew on a wall, and the monastery’s doors were then set
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the unidentified
22-year-old from Bnei Brak, a predominantly Orthodox town near Tel Aviv, was
arrested on Sunday, and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
was promptly condemned by Netanyahu, who said the perpetrators had threatened
freedom of religion and must be punished.
Sunday’s arrest came in the
wake of numerous attacks in Arab communities in recent months, including two
major incidents within the past couple weeks where dozens of cars were
vandalized in Abu Ghosh, west of the capital, and Beit Hanina, in northern
Price-tag attacks have mostly focused on Palestinian property,
including vehicles, homes and mosques, but have occasionally targeted Christian
churches and Arab sites in the country, resulting in some fearing a third
intifada.Yonah Jeremy Bob and Reuters contributed to this report.