National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir met on Wednesday with the families of three Jewish far-right activists who were placed earlier in the week in administrative detention.
The three – a minor and two right-wing activists and residents of the West Bank – were ordered held by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the recommendation of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Administrative detention, which enables authorities to hold individuals without charge or trial, is an aggressive tool that the state uses against terror suspects against whom it has concrete intelligence that cannot be used in court. While it appears contrary to due process, it is utilized by other democracies and has been an important legal tool in Israel’s battle against terrorism – mostly Palestinian – for the last 25 years.
The latest three were placed in administrative detention due to information indicating that they were involved in the violence against Palestinians in the village of Huwara last month. Dozens of Israelis entered the Palestinian village and rampaged through it, beating people and setting cars and homes on fire.
The rampage took place in response to the murder earlier that day of the Yaniv brothers, who were gunned down while driving through the village.
Ben-Gvir reportedly told the parents that while he does not have authority over administrative detentions, he was in touch with the relevant authorities and was doing what he could to try and secure their release.
What is Ben-Gvir doing?
As a member of the coalition and the security cabinet, he could likely be given access to at least some of the intelligence that led Gallant to make his decision, if he really wanted it. He could learn about the issue, study it and understand that there was a legal and intelligence process that led to the decision to hold them.
Undermining the government
Instead, Ben-Gvir has taken the opposite approach. He has decided to undermine the government from within and interfere with the critical and sensitive work of the security forces. It is almost as though Ben-Gvir has not realized that he is a senior minister in the government and instead thinks he is still a private advocate who represents suspected Jewish terrorists.
It was a stark contrast to last week’s indictment of two Israelis who live in Samaria for attacking Palestinians with an ax and stones in Huwara on Purim.
During those riots, a group of about 10 Israelis entered Huwara and began attacking Palestinians. In one instance, the group noticed a Palestinian family from Qibliya in a car outside a supermarket and began throwing stones at the car. They also hit the shoulder and hand of one of the occupants with an ax through the window. At least five Palestinians were injured.
An indictment was filed against two individuals on Thursday, charging them with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and willfully causing damage to a vehicle for racist reasons. They belong to a group that acts to harm Palestinians and disrupt Israeli security forces, the police and Shin Bet said.
This is what happens when the judicial system works properly: there is a crime, the police and Shin Bet investigate, and the suspects are charged. They will now stand trial.
Ben-Gvir seems to want to disrupt that. He wants to undermine the system and make it harder for the law to be applied and enforced.
This is not only irresponsible – it is also extremely dangerous. As a senior minister in the government and the one who might soon get authority over the national guard, Ben-Gvir needs to show the public that he can be trusted to defend the rule of law and the institutions that were created to protect the state and those under its domain. If he can’t do that, he shouldn’t be in his post and he certainly should not be given his own security force.
The alternative is anarchy, allowing people to take the law into their own hands and do what they want without any regard for the law. This is a dangerous path that Israel cannot be allowed to go down.