Amid Shin Bet warnings, Ben Gvir said to dismiss deadly settler violence as ‘graffiti’

Report says premier shot down far-right minister, said situation is serious; Yesh Din says at least 172 reports of settler violence, harassment of Palestinians since Oct. 7

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tried to downplay the phenomenon of deadly settler violence when the head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar raised concerns at a recent cabinet meeting, Channel 12 reported Friday.

Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, reportedly asked why so much attention needed to be given to the “graffiti” Israeli youth are daubing on Palestinian property.

Upon hearing this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly shot down Ben Gvir and told him the settler violence is much more serious than that, Channel 12 reported.

The outlet said the premier implored security chiefs in the room to do more to combat settler violence.

According to Channel 12, Bar has alerted the war cabinet, wider cabinet, and the defense establishment about concerns of an eruption of violence in the West Bank, noting an increase in settler violence and clashes with Palestinians amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The report came hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israeli leaders had assured him that they will condemn attacks on Palestinian civilians and take action to curb the phenomenon and to hold perpetrators accountable.

“Extremist violence against Palestinians must be stopped,” he said. “We will be looking closely to ensure that our friends make good on that commitment.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, at a pre-Passover toast on April 4, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The US State Department said Blinken and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz discussed efforts to “maintain calm and stability in the West Bank,” during their Friday meeting.

Additionally, US President Joe Biden has urged Netanyahu during phone calls to ensure that Israeli authorities are preventing growing incidents of settler violence, fearing that spiraling tensions in the West Bank could significantly exacerbate the war, the Axios news site reported last week.

Israel’s Yesh Din rights group said Friday that there had been over 172 incidents of settler violence and harassment against Palestinians in at least 84 Palestinian towns and communities in the West Bank since Hamas’s savage and murderous assault on Israel on October 7, which sparked a war with the terror group.

An off-duty IDF soldier was arrested by military police on Sunday on suspicion of shooting dead Palestinian man Bilal Muhammed Saleh, who had reportedly been harvesting olives near the northern West Bank village of As-Sawiya on October 28. There have been no reports of other arrests.

According to the PA health ministry, some 130 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and in some cases settlers, since October 7.

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