The increasing terror in the country has recently led to numerous outbursts of anger by Jewish settlers against neighboring Palestinian villages. The Jewish rioters were sharply criticized for their behavior in the media and abroad. But Israel’s governing coalition has also been criticized for failing to more decisively condemn these acts of violence. But it can’t do so. After all, that’s the government’s voter base. On the contrary, some government ministers compare the acts of violence committed by the Jewish settlers with the acts of violence and disruption committed by left-wing demonstrators in Tel Aviv. The opposition insists on using administrative detention against Jewish settlers, while the coalition is pushing for administrative detention against left-wing demonstrators, Arabs and Druze.
So when it comes to administrative detention against Jewish settlers, there is a row in the governing coalition. “An administrative penalty against Jews is wrong,” insisted Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is himself a religious setter. His remark came in response to coalition colleague and Minister of Defense Yoav Ga.lant, who signed an arrest warrant for four Jewish settlers. All four Jews have been implicated in recent acts of violence against Palestinians, and not for the first time. “Administrative penalties against settlers are democratically and morally wrong. Law breakers need to be prosecuted, and if the legal system were more professional and less lazy things would be a lot easier,” Smotrich tweeted. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir issued a similar statement.
Weeks earlier, Ben-Gvir had emphasized the need for administrative detention for Arab citizens of Israel. “Regarding organized crime among the Arab population, I have repeatedly suggested imposing administrative penalties on Arabs, but the legal system opposes this,” Ben-Gvir said. “I don’t like administrative penalties because it’s an extreme step, but sometimes we have no other choice. We must act in the extreme, especially when there is a bloodbath on the Arab streets. The public prosecutor’s office must intervene urgently and immediately issue administrative arrest warrants against Arabs. This is the only way we can fight Arab violence.”
The day before yesterday, the heads of Israel’s defense establishment issued a joint condemnation of the acts of violence committed by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages. Ben-Gvir fired back: “There is no way we will apologize to the terrorists. It is Jews who are being murdered, not Palestinians. The problem is not the Jewish settlements, but Jenin. Palestinian terror must be eradicated.” Gallant, however, stressed that Israel must not follow in the footsteps of the Arabs: “This is not our way.”
“I understand that I am being bullied here,” Ben-Gvir said during the debate with the Israeli security chiefs. “For a week now I’ve been hearing from the heads of the security apparatus about the serious acts of violence committed by the Jewish settlers and that Israel must not capitulate. But where is the same determination toward the Druze when they turn violent? Where is the resolve toward the anarchists who burned tires outside the Attorney General’s house? Nothing is being done about this and no emergency meeting of the security forces and police is being called. The government has not issued a joint and official condemnation.”
The fact is that the coalition must be careful with the Jewish settlers or it will fall. A small fringe group of Jewish rioters, including the so-called “Hilltop Youth” (Hebrew: Noar HaG’vaot), are now more daring than ever in taking the law into their own hands, because now they have powerful representatives and advocates in government, namely Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is therefore in a bind. There is nothing he can do, and the Israeli government is being heavily criticized from Washington for not doing enough against the Jewish rioters. That’s one of the excuses Americans give for not inviting Bibi to Washington. This raises the question of whether Netanyahu has not lost control over his coalition.
The violent behavior of the rioters and Hilltop Youth was also heavily criticized within the Jewish settler movement. A few days ago, when Jewish settlers verbally attacked a high-ranking military officer who was visiting the family of one of the four Israelis killed in the recent terrorist attack, calling him a traitor and murderer, this behavior was sharply criticized even by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. “The attack on the battalion commander is wrong and deserves condemnation. Such terrible rhetoric must not be justified. This is an IDF commander who gives his life in defense of the people of Israel, the State of Israel and the settlements. Shame on you,” Smotrich tweeted.
מח״ט בנימין אל״ם אליאב אלבז הגיע הערב לניחום אבלים בבית משפחתו של הראל מסעוד ז״ל ביד בנימין, וגורש משם בידי חבריו.
תגובת דובר צהל:
מדובר באירוע חריג ושאינו מתקבל על הדעת כלפי מפקד שעושה לילות כימים לבטחון התושבים. pic.twitter.com/8Px1gaLSQF
— יוסי יהושוע – Yossi Yehoshua (@YehoshuaYosi) June 26, 2023
As long as the government does not take a clear stand against it, this encourages people to commit acts of violence against Palestinians, and this is exactly what the defense establishment leaders are warning of. As Gallant and the Security Committee said, “We cannot behave like the Palestinians.”
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