Coalition MKs slam Shin Bet chief for warning against Jewish terror; Gallant hits back

Ronen Bar said to tell PM settler attacks are fueling Palestinian terrorism; lawmakers accuse defense officials of being unable to ‘distinguish between enemy and your people’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security agency, speaks at the annual Cyber Week event at Tel Aviv University, on June 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security agency, speaks at the annual Cyber Week event at Tel Aviv University, on June 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Two coalition lawmakers denounced the head of the Shin Bet on Sunday for reportedly warning that terrorist acts by Jewish Israelis are fueling Palestinian terrorism, asserting that “ideas of the left have reached the top” of the security agency and that senior defense officials do not know how to “distinguish between the enemy and your own people.”

The verbal attacks prompted Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to come to the defense of Shin Bet head Ronen Bar. “Thanks to the members of the Shin Bet and their leader, who operate far from the public eye, the lives of Israeli citizens are saved every day,” Gallant said in a statement.

“I strongly condemn the statements of Knesset members insulting the head of the Shin Bet, and suggest that they retract them and apologize for their words,” he continued, referring to his fellow coalition members.

“Any attack by public figures against the Shin Bet harms the security of the state and its citizens,” Gallant added.

On Sunday morning, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that Bar had personally warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jewish terrorism against Palestinians in the West Bank was fueling Palestinian terrorism.

The warning reportedly came days before a young Palestinian man was killed by Israeli settlers near Ramallah on Friday night, and a Palestinian terrorist from Jenin killed an Israeli patrolman in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a discussion and a vote in Knesset, July 30, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Responding to the report, MK Limor Son Har Melech of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party slammed the Shin Bet in an interview with the Ynet news site.

“We see that they got mixed up and don’t know how to define who is the enemy and don’t know how to deter the enemy and overpower the enemy, so we find ourselves facing such distorted definitions. Who should you be taking care of and who should you be fighting?” said Har Melech, whose former spokesperson Elisha Yered was arrested in connection to the Friday killing of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan.

“It is impossible to ignore the fact that a perception and policy has permeated within the senior command ranks, which, as I said earlier, does not know how to distinguish between an enemy and your own people,” she told Ynet.

“Unfortunately, today everyone already knows that there is a glass ceiling within the army and the security establishment. Only people with very specific opinions are promoted, and those who think otherwise are not promoted. Opinions that are very, very destructive to the nation of Israel,” Har Melech claimed.

Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, right, is accompanied by her then-spokesperson Elisha Yered in Jerusalem, February 26, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Firebrand Likud MK Tally Gotliv meanwhile told Ynet that “The ideas of the left have also reached the top of the Shin Bet,” claiming that the “deep state has reached the head of the Shin Bet and the heads of the IDF,” using a term for a supposed conspiracy of bureaucrats working against the elected leadership.

“The timing of the Shin Bet chief’s announcement is outrageous,” Gotliv added.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, for his part, reacted to Friday’s incident in which an Israeli settler allegedly shot dead a Palestinian man by praising the arrested gunman and indicating that he should get a “medal of honor.”

There has been a rise in settler violence in recent months, with the United Nations on Friday reporting there have been nearly 600 attacks on Palestinians and their property over the past six months.

Illustrative: A screenshot from video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Friday’s deadly incident came after several other Palestinians were killed in disputed circumstances involving settlers this year.

The recent settler attacks have been condemned by the military, police, and a number of politicians, including some from the hardline right-wing coalition, but there has been little clear-cut condemnation from settlement leaders.

Some far-right lawmakers have indicated their support for the violent settlers, and have attacked defense officials.

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