The security cabinet on Sunday gave its final approval to an initiative of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev to declare the Israel Police Counterterrorism Unit (Yamam) as the country’s national counterterrorism unit.
Bennett recounted a visit he made to watch the unit carry out a full-scale counterterrorism exercise last month when he first announced his intention to upgrade the status and funding of the unit.
Having observed the exercise along with Bar Lev and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai, he told any potential adversaries of the unit, “Don’t mess with them… I saw the Yamam training and demonstrating what they know how to do best: to seize control over a terrorist attack with determination, efficiency and professionalism.”
As part of boosting Yamam’s capabilities and stature, the unit will receive an additional NIS 10 million in funding for 2022.
The funding is slated to pay for better weaponry, counterterrorism tools, increasing the unit’s personnel and more advanced and counterterrorism training geared to various scenarios.
The move follows years of planning and coordination between the National Security Council, the Public Security Ministry and the Defense Ministry.
The Yamam have been involved in counterterrorism operations for decades, but so have elite IDF units, including Shayetet 13 (naval commandos) and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Bennett hinted at Yamam’s years of saving lives “in a long line of operations, regarding which I cannot fully elaborate. But I am telling you we are in good hands.”
It was unclear how the change would impact the balance among the various groups, but Yamam clearly will be given some additional new responsibilities and roles.
As part of future planning for the unit, all the relevant government agencies are continuing to meet to arrive at additional budgetary and planning needs from 2023 on.
Bennett said he expects Yamam will become “the best counterterrorism force in the world.”