The existence of Jewish terror cells capable of carrying out deadly terror attacks and seeking to topple Israel's government have been well-known to the country's intelligence service for years. Yet in the wake of an arson attack that killed an 18-month old Palestinian baby on July 31, it has emerged that security advice about the hardline groups was apparently ignored by politicians.
On Sunday, Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon approved the use of administrative detention — indefinite incarceration without trial — for suspects in the killing of the infant Ali Saad Dawabsha and urged security services to use "all means at their disposal" to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, officials say the baby's death may have been prevented if the powers, long-applicable to alleged Palestinian terrorists, had been approved by for use by politicians against known Jewish extremists sooner.
"The Shin Bet [security service] asked the government on several occasions for the capacity to use administrative detention and other intelligence resources against these [Jewish] radicals and it was denied," Lior Akerman a former Shin Bet division head of internal security in the occupied territories told VICE News.
"These people, their names, where they are living and operating, their extremist websites and blogs where they write are familiar to security services… They are very fanatical and dangerous. They have no respect for the Israeli law, the police, Shin Bet; they don't care, they believe only in God's rules so they will do whatever is needed according to this fundamentalist interpretation of the religion [Judaism]."
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Less than 24 hours after Yaalon approved the use of draconian detention measures Meir Ettinger, grandson of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, an extremist Israeli-American right-winger, was arrested by the Shin Bet for questioning in relation to his "involvement in a Jewish extremist organization."
According to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, security services believe that the 24-year-old leads an underground group of "anarchist, anti-Zionist" radical settlers, mainly youths, that are seeking to bring down the country's government and augment unrest via a series of targeted terror attacks against non-Jews. The group has been linked to numerous attacks over the last year against Mosques, Palestinian homes, and Christian holy sites, including the firebombing of the Catholic Church of Multiplication in June, where Christians believe Jesus performed the loaves and fishes miracle.
While official figures show the number of retribution, or so-called "price-tag," attacks by Jewish extremists has fallen from 30 in 2011 to 10 in 2014, security services say hardline radicals have shown increased willingness to carry out lethal attacks over the last year.
'Stock up with a petrol bomb, preferably of a liter and a half; a lighter; gloves; a mask; a crowbar/hammer; a bag to carry it all.'
A Hebrew how-to guide for carrying out terror attacks discovered in the car of Moshe Orbach, one of two suspects charged with the arson attack on the Church of Multiplication, reads like a blueprint for the firebomb attack that just days later killed Ali Dawabasha and left his mother, father and 4-year-old brother in a critical condition.
The manual, entitled Kingdom of Evil, advises would-be assailants to: "Stock up with a petrol bomb, preferably of a liter and a half; a lighter; gloves; a mask; a crowbar/hammer; a bag to carry it all. When you get to the village, search for a house with an open door or window without bars."
"These people are very, very fanatical. In their thinking they are very much like the fundamentalist Muslims, like ISIS [Islamic State group] and Hamas," said Akerman. "They are living in the mountains of Judea and Samaria [West Bank]. Their organization is very loose but their ideology is pretty much all the same. They all want to establish a Kingdom of Israel, appoint a King, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and live according to halakhah — the Jewish law. They believe that to do this they must bring down the government and destroy the existence of all other religions."
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While the Israeli government has loudly condemned the recent attacks, critics say it is little more than a gesture by the authorities whose decades of near-total silence on settler crimes has created atmosphere of impunity for violent attacks against Palestinians.
"The government has never wanted to deal properly with Jewish terrorism, this is not new, it has been going on since the 1980s, planting bombs in the West Bank, attacking people," Yossi Mekelberg an Israel analyst with Chatham House, told VICE News. "They [radical settlers] have always got away with it, or got off lightly… so they have developed a sense that they can do whatever they want."
Others point to the influence of hardline pro-settler and religious parties within the government itself. "Of course you would never have people say they support killing, throwing Molotov cocktails and murdering children," alleged Akerman. "But they [settlers] know they have the support of at least a few active members of the Knesset [Israeli parliament], particularly from the Jewish Home and Likud."
While the leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, who also serves as Israel's Education Minister, condemned the recent attack firebomb attack he also cautioned against the "vilification" of the some 430,000 "wonderful" Jews living beyond the 1967 Green Line. "There is such a foolish attempt at the moment. It will not succeed. Whoever engages in such action is guilty of the same sin of prejudice and incitement," he wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.
Bennett, accompanied by several other right-wing MPs, last week delivered a speech at Beit El settlement where protesters threw rocks at Israeli security forces as they moved in to carry out a court-ordered demolition of two buildings, which did not have construction permits. Later that day, in a move widely seen as a bid to appease the settlers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the building of a further 300 housing units in the outpost deemed illegal under international law.
"They keep caving in and caving in and hoping the problem will go away, but they don't understand the more they cave in the more they demand," said Mekelberg. "If you were a settler what would you learn from this? Keep the violence, keep the defiance, ignore the Supreme Court because they will destroy the two buildings but then they will build you many more. So there is no limit or no authority on them."
Related: One Palestinian Dead in Clashes with IDF After Arson Attack Kills Infant
Ettinger, who was last year issued with a restraining order banning him from Jerusalem and West Bank, is thought to have topped the Shin Bet's "most wanted" list of Jewish terror suspects for some time, but security services have been unable to gather enough evidence to bring a case against him through regular channels.
In a blog post written on Friday, Ettinger denied being the leader of a terror organization but called on Jews to join the "real struggle against the government's sin of allowing idol worship… in the Land of Israel, where the sound of church bells interferes with the sound of Torah and prayers."
"There are many, many Jews, many more than one might think, whose value systems are very different than those of the Supreme Court or the Shin Bet, and are not bound the ignorant laws of the state, but rather by laws much more eternal, from the source of the living water," he wrote.
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