Israel’s use of administrative detention for a number of Jewish terror suspects has proved effective in preventing additional violence against Arabs by hardline Jews, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in remarks aired Friday.
In an interview with Channel 10 broadcast Friday night, Ya’alon called the controversial method of detaining suspects for extended periods without trial “extreme,” but defended the “draconian” practice as a necessity in the face of terrorism.
“In such situations, any country — most certainly a democracy– must defend itself, including the taking of extreme measures,” Ya’alon said. “But when you have no choice, you have to protect yourself.”
“This draconian step was necessary in this case, because if we hadn’t taken it, we would have seen a string of attacks against Arabs,” he said.
The defense minister said he was confident that suspects in custody are connected to last month’s deadly arson attack on a Palestinian home blamed on Jewish extremists.
“I have no doubt we are holding the correct people in administrative detention,” he said of Jewish detainees such as Meir Ettinger, the 23-year-old grandson of assassinated extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the outlawed anti-Arab Kach organization.
When asked if he believed Ettinger was linked to the deadly arson attack, Ya’alon said “Ultimately, in principle, yes.”
The practice of detaining suspects without trial, Ya’alon noted, was subject to judicial review, and said that dealing with Jewish terror suspects necessitated using the same methods implemented against Palestinian terror suspects.
Israel usually uses the measure, which dates from British Mandate, against Palestinians, allowing renewable six-month periods of detention without trial. Currently, 379 of the 5,686 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jail are on administrative detention, according to official figures.
Ya’alon’s remarks come as Israel cracks down on Jewish extremists in the wake of the killings of Sa’ad Dawabsha and his 18-month-old Ali in the July 31 arson attack on their home in the Palestinian village of Duma.
The attack, coupled with a fatal stabbing spree by an extremist Jew at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade a day earlier, sparked an international and domestic outcry over Israel’s failure to get to grips with violence by Jewish terrorists and extremists.
Earlier this month, the cabinet authorized the use of administrative detention and all other appropriate means to track down and hold suspects responsible for the murders of the Dawabshas.
Administrative detention is considered a harsh and highly controversial method, but is increasingly used by world governments to combat the threat of terror, when there is not enough evidence against a suspect to justify a criminal trial. Administrative detention is temporary in nature, but may be renewed repeatedly by the defense minister.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report