Shin Bet chief said to warn Ben Gvir he is inciting violence in East Jerusalem

Speaking directly with national security minister, Ronen Bar reportedly says crackdown is seen by Palestinian residents as collective harassment, could drive up terror attacks

Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security services speaks during a conference at the Reichman University in Herzliya, September 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security services speaks during a conference at the Reichman University in Herzliya, September 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Shin Bet security service chief Ronen Bar recently spoke to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and reportedly warned him that his crackdown in East Jerusalem in response to terror attacks is likely to incite further violence.

Ben Gvir, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, is pushing for police to step up a campaign of house demolitions and general enforcement in East Jerusalem, in response to attacks in the past month that have killed 11 Israelis.

“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 a report Wednesday by Channel 13.

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

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 were destroyed. Ben Gvir had wanted to raze more but he was held back by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The report called Bar’s decision to call Ben Gvir highly unusual. The Shin Bet is under the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office and the network assessed that Bar would have had to speak to Netanyahu first to receive approval to contact Ben Gvir.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Shin Bet told Channel 13 in a statement that it does not comment on conversations between its chief and political leaders.

A statement on behalf of Ben Gvir likewise declined to comment directly on the private conversation but added that there must be a change of policy in the capital.

“For years we have not touched East Jerusalem and it explodes in our faces,” the statement said. “It is time to enforce the law in East Jerusalem as well. Governance and sovereignty will make it clear to the terrorists that Israel is in charge.”

Security sources told the channel that they see a spike in violence as a foregone conclusion given that efforts to calm tensions in the capital have failed and with the approach of Ramadan. The Muslim holy month has traditionally seen violence spike, in particular around the Temple Mound complex, where the situation has been especially volatile of late.

Israeli security forces guard as authorities demolish a structure in the East Jerusalem Neighborhood of Sur Baher, February 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben Gvir has vowed to take a more aggressive stance against Palestinian homes that were built without the necessary permits from Israel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He has framed the demolition of such structures as part of Israel’s efforts to combat Palestinian terror, even though there have been no links between the owners of the homes razed due to a lack of permit in recent weeks to security offenses.

Ben Gvir has also reportedly clashed with Netanyahu and Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai over the issue.

Multiple reports have said that in both cases conversations were heated and “voices were raised” and that, in the end, Ben Gvir vowed to push ahead with demolitions and to order the call-up of three reserve Border Police companies.

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