The Shin Bet internal security agency was reportedly livid at Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday for ordering the release of a Jewish terror suspect from administrative detention on Tuesday — a day after he signed the order to arrest him.
Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina alliance, canceled the extraordinary measure to detain Eliya Ben David following an outcry by far-right lawmakers and activists.
“The decision to cancel the detention order, which the minister himself had signed and approved, lends support to extremist activities on the ground,” Channel 12 news quoted Shin Bet sources saying.
“They [the extremists] are likely to interpret this as a move meant to weaken the security services’ operations against Jewish terror and to raise the motivation for violent and illegal action,” they added.
The sources warned of a repeat of the 2015 attack in Duma, where three Palestinian members of a family were killed in a firebombing — allegedly by Jewish extremists.
The Shin Bet sources said the detention recommendation was based on “high-quality intelligence about a high level of danger posed by [Ben David].”
Bennett on Wednesday responded to the Shin Bet criticism, saying at a campaign event in Ramat Gan that he “greatly appreciates the work of Shin Bet personnel.”
“They protect us and our security against Arab terror in Gaza and Judea and Samaria; they are brothers,” Bennett said, referring to the West Bank by its Biblical names.
“But as the defense minister of the State of Israel, I’m not rubber stamping anyone. I have values and my own views and I need to properly balance the security of the state and the values of liberty,” he added.
The reversal by Bennett came after an uproar by far-right lawmakers and activists over the administrative detention order.
Ben David, 19, had been arrested on suspicion of throwing a rock at a moving vehicle that moderately wounded a Palestinian man.
A statement from his office said Bennett had ordered a review of the case after being made privy to the initial court decision to release Ben David on Monday.
“After thorough scrutiny, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will reduce the administrative detention order against Ben David to [an order] restricting entry to Judea and Samaria [West Bank] only, pending approval from the head of the IDF’s Central Command” the statement added, leaving final say on the matter with Major General Nadav Padan.
Ben David was first arrested ten days ago, but on Monday, the Lod District Court ordered him released due to a lack of evidence against him.
In his ruling, Judge Ido Druyan-Gamliel criticized law enforcement’s handling of the case, writing that “we cannot carry on as if nothing happened here,” and ordered that the minutes from the hearing be transferred to the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, as well as to the Shin Bet and the police’s Judea and Samaria (West Bank) District’s Major Crimes Unit, for an internal investigation.
Ben David did not manage to make it out of the courtroom before Shin Bet officers arrived with an administrative detention order signed by Bennett in hand to place him back in custody.
The measure has rarely been used against Jewish suspects, and the Honenu legal aid organization representing Ben David said their client was the only Jewish Israeli in administrative detention. The practice is far more common with Palestinians, with 464 of them behind bars without due process as of January 2020, according to the B’Tselem rights group.
Administrative detention allows a terror suspect to be held indefinitely without trial in six-month renewable increments. While detainees can appeal the detention itself to the High Court of Justice or lower district courts, the suspects do not receive full trials or have access to the evidence against them.
Defending the order, a security official said Monday that Ben David is “a violent and radical figure suspected of recent involvement in violent activity against Palestinians lately.”
“Administrative detention is a preventive tool, not a punitive one, which is used only in cases where a threat cannot be prevented in other ways,” the official said in a statement, adding that the currently sensitive security situation in the West Bank requires such tactics.
But far-right activists were unimpressed, protesting outside Bennett’s house in Ra’anana and blasting him for robbing a Jewish Israeli of due process. Statements of condemnation against the defense minister’s decision were issued by members of the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party but also from MK Moti Yogev, who is in Bennett’s Yamina alliance.
Ben David comes from a well-known Orthodox family in the northern town of Nof Hagalil where his father serves as a principal of an elementary school.