Nearly two weeks ago, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Ronen Bar warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jewish terrorism and violence was spinning out of control. The Jerusalem Post has learned that this was within the context of objections to the judicial overhaul.
Bar’s warning takes on new meaning after settlers and Palestinians clashed over the weekend near Burka, not far from Ramallah, leaving one Palestinian man dead: 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Ma’atan.
Information, both public and private, from the IDF and the Shin Bet, make it crystal clear that Israel’s security forces are failing to prevent such incidents.
Security forces not dedicating enough resources to combatting settler terror
That means while Israeli security forces are using drones, proactive intelligence collections, and ambushes to thwart numerous Palestinian terrorist plots before they happen, so far, there is much less proactive action to block Jewish violence and terrorism before it occurs.
It seems clear that there was fault on both sides in the Burka incident, but from what has been leaked to date, that fault was not balanced.
Jews from the illegal Oz Zion outpost who were involved in the incident came as close as 250 meters from Burka to graze their flocks of sheep on Palestinian land.
The timing of it was odd, as it was just as Shabbat was about to begin, and most those involved are nominally Shabbat observant. Some were armed with items later allegedly used for arson attacks against Palestinian property. Yehiel Indore was armed with a gun – not something one needs for grazing sheep.
Meanwhile, the IDF had no personnel guarding for any potential violence. They would have had the ability to intervene and stop the inevitable clashes, which dragged on for multiple hours, slowly and painfully unfolding and escalating.
The IDF said it was given incorrect or incomplete information by Palestinian sources about where the incident was taking place, which it said threw off its forces.
The IDF actually did not arrive at the scene until the Jews called in the correct location, after Indore was hit in the head by a rock thrown by one of the Palestinians. The stone throwers on both sides were not arrested; only those directly connected with the shooting were.
The hope right now is that the investigation reveals whether Indore fired first or whether the firing was preempted by a stone that was thrown at his head. But all that is beside the point.
The IDF is by far the most powerful military in the Middle East and is on the short list for the whole planet in terms of its technology and surveillance.
Top IDF and Shin Bet officers regularly brag that Israel can take out terrorists and enemies anywhere in the region at any time because of Israel’s drone, spy plane, and F-35 stealth aircraft capabilities.
So, is it really viable to say that Israel’s security forces could not up their game, including aerial capabilities, to catch altercations in the West Bank between Jews and Palestinians and stop them before they get out of hand?
At one time, the IDF had only 13 battalions in the West Bank; today, it has 20, while at the height of the terrorist wave, it was up to 26, meaning there is an option to bring in more troops. When the IDF got ready to invade Gaza in 2014, it called up 80,000 reserve soldiers, and earlier in July, it carried out 20 pinpoint airstrikes from drones in Jenin in two days.
From May 9-13, the IDF attacked Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza 422 times, including 278 completely distinct targets. IDF drones logged more than 4,000 hours hovering over Gaza during the five-day operation.
After three Jewish teenagers were killed by Palestinian terrorists in July 2014, the IDF quickly rounded up and detained hundreds of suspects.
So what changed? The only noticeable factor is the administrative detention of between a half dozen to a dozen settlers, joining the 1,000 Palestinians already detained.
Administrative detention could be temporarily useful to sideline violent Jewish ringleaders if they are guilty. But it also might not if they are innocent, and it is overall a drop in the bucket in cases where hundreds are participating in an attack, such as in Huwara.
Israel’s security forces could be doing a lot more. The Post understands that top IDF officers do not want it to.
The military will sometimes rebuke and maybe even discipline troops who happen to be in the “right” place and witness Jewish violence against Palestinians without putting a stop to it. But it does not see that as its role.
It believes the IDF’s job is to fight Israel’s exterior enemies and to combat terrorism targeting Israelis, along with the Shin Bet; anything else is secondary, preferring that the police handle these types of issues.
This argument may be viable for a few months or a year or two, but not for a continuous issue that has gone on for more than 50 years.
As well, the current governing coalition includes people who actively push against the IDF and the Shin Bet reining in any Jewish violence. This is not only a problem for Israel in terms of its human-rights obligations, but it flows into the Shin Bet and IDF warnings that Jewish violence against Palestinians boomerangs and leads to exponentially more terrorism against Jews.
Not that terrorists need a reason, but when the Shin Bet, along with top military officers, warns that 18 months into a Palestinian terrorist wave, Jewish vigilante violence could worsen matters, failing to recalibrate the investment in addressing Jewish violence could prove disastrous.