Netanyahu says Ben Gvir to chair task force on Palestinian incitement to terror

Following deadly attacks in Jerusalem, PM says he and police minister have agreed to form a panel ‘to fight against those inciting acts of murder against us’

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with the head of the Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben Gvir in the Knesset on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with the head of the Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben Gvir in the Knesset on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced plans to form a “special task force” to combat Palestinian incitement to terror, following several recent deadly terror attacks in Jerusalem.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said he’d agreed on the formation of the panel over the weekend with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who will chair the task force.

“We are working with double the vigor against incitement,” Netanyahu said, adding the body will “fight against those inciting murderous acts against us.”

Netanyahu said Ben Gvir “will receive reinforcements of investigators, police officers and prosecutors,” with the work to be coordinated with the Shin Bet security agency, the military and the National Cyber Directorate.

The premier did not specify when the task force would be formally set up and begin its work.

Ben Gvir, whose ministry is in charge of police, put out a tweet confirming he will lead the panel, without offering further details. Ben Gvir has been convicted in the past of incitement against Arabs.

Israeli security forces gather at the entrance to east Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp following a stabbing attack on February 13, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The announcement came as Ben Gvir, whose ministry is in charge of police, has pushed for a crackdown in East Jerusalem as a response to terror attacks in the capital over the past month, which have claimed eleven lives.

Members of his ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party have joined in the calls for harsher measures, with one lawmaker on Thursday urging a total ban on the TikTok application in East Jerusalem for allegedly fueling incitement to terror.

However, the calls to ramp up operations have been resisted by security brass, including Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, who has been wrangling with Ben Gvir regarding the extent of the minister’s powers over the force.

In a television interview Saturday, Shabtai insisted the current operations in East Jerusalem “surgically” target suspects and that police were not interested in collective punishment.

“There are more than a few warnings of attacks. In recent weeks we’ve seen a tangible increase in the number of warnings. Our concern is the unknown — lone-wolf attackers. I wouldn’t call the situation now an intifada, but there is an escalation,” Shabtai told Channel 12 news.

Last week, Channel 13 reported that Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar had warned Ben Gvir the ongoing crackdown was likely to incite further violence.

“Your activity is creating a feeling of collective harassment. This is agitating [East] Jerusalem and may cause a broad flare-up at this sensitive time,” Bar told Ben Gvir, according to the report Wednesday.

Ben Gvir reportedly dismissed Bar’s warnings and retorted that the methods Bar has used in the past had not brought security.

Medics and police officers at the scene of a deadly car-ramming terror attack near Ramot Junction in Jerusalem on February 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Measures taken so far by Ben Gvir have disrupted the lives of some 10,000 East Jerusalem residents, with 100 Palestinians arrested or detained by police, the report said. In addition, 500 parking tickets or traffic citations have been handed out and seven illegally constructed buildings destroyed. Ben Gvir had wanted to raze more but he was held back by Netanyahu, it said.

In response to the crackdown, Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem called for a general strike and civil disobedience on Sunday.

Most Popular
read more: