Israel: Shin Bet head warns against measures demanded by ministers

Middle East Monitor  /  January 30, 2023

The head of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet has warned against radical security measures in occupied Jerusalem demanded by ministers during Sunday’s cabinet. According to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, unnamed sources said that during the meeting, the far-right Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, called for a curfew on the Shu’afat refugee camp and other areas in Jerusalem. The sources added that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also called for “securing [besieging] the Arab towns in the city of Jerusalem.”

However, Shin Bet’s Ronen Bar opposed the ministers’ demands. “The security authorities, headed by the Shin Bet,” said the broadcaster, “described these measures as collective punishment.” The sources explained that the security authorities believe that imposing more collective punitive measures on the Palestinians in Jerusalem will lead to more attacks against Israeli targets.

Channel 13 quoted a senior official who attended the cabinet meeting as saying, “Itamar Ben-Gvir does not understand that he is in a cabinet discussion and not in a Knesset committee.” The channel pointed out that security officials considered Ben-Gvir’s proposals “extreme” which would widen the circle of escalation and lead to more Palestinian operations against the occupation forces and Jewish settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Bar pointed out that the closure and curfew imposed by the occupation forces in the Shu’afat refugee camp following the shooting attack carried out by Uday al-Tamimi on 8 October, which killed a female soldier, “failed miserably”.

Kan 11 revealed that an argument broke out between Ben-Gvir and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara. “You do not live in the country I live in,” Ben-Gvir told her. “You sabotaged our work, you received the sealing materials [the government’s decision to seal the house of martyr Khairy Alqam in Al-Tur prior to its demolition] at 8 am [Saturday].”

Baharav-Miara replied by saying that she did not receive the materials until the evening, to which the Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, responded by saying, “It is clear that there is no time frame for attorney generals, they are above time, and they do not understand that if you do not act quickly, you are threatened with receiving strikes.”

The report added that Smotrich insisted that, “We need to change the equation. We have a mandate from the public, the people elected us to take big and important steps.” Aryeh Deri, however, urged caution: “We need to think about the steps. We have a comprehensive responsibility on our shoulders. We need to take care of the Americans. We can’t do everything we want.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive in the occupation state today, Monday, and meet with Netanyahu and his Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen. The Palestinian issue will dominate the talks during Blinken’s visit.

Channel 13 said that the cabinet agreed to suspend the procedures for advancing the settlement project and approving new settlement plans, until after the visit of the senior US official. As part of the coalition talks, it was agreed to legalize settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank. At the moment, all Jewish settlements are illegal under international law, and so-called outposts are even illegal under Israeli law.