Israel needs to see if the actions of right-wing extremist could be legally defined as terror, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday, as Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman weighed emergency measures in the wake of recent price tag attacks and assaults on IDF troops.
Also commenting on the incident was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who strongly condemned the rioting in the Efraim area, and said that such events cannot be ignored. In a conversation with activists from his Yisrael Beiteinu party, Lieberman said that such acts cause enormous problems for the settlement enterprise and Israeli society. Lieberman also said that nothing justifies violence against IDF soldiers, and that the rioters are akin to “weeds that must be uprooted.”
The ministers' comments came after some 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a key West Bank military base on Tuesday, throwing rocks, burning tires, and vandalizing military vehicles.
In an apparent price-tag attack earlier Wednesday, anonymous perpetrators set a historical Jerusalem mosque alight, spray painting phrases such as "Muhammad is dead" and "Muhammad is a pig" on its walls.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Minister Ne'eman is expected to form a list of proposals geared at toughening legal actions against right-wing activists and in the wake of recent price tag attacks.
Jerusalem price tag
Ne'eman is to discuss the matter with Justice Ministry officials and police representatives. One option on the table is the declaration of right-wing extremists as a terror organization, which would enable immediate arrests and prevention actions.
Referring to a recent resurgence of right-wing violence, Barak said in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday that Israel needs to see if the so-called hilltop youth, a group of young people who were born in the settlements and who belong to the extreme right, could be designated as a terror organization.
"From the way they conduct themselves, there's no question that this is terror behavior," Barak told Army Radio, saying that the need to define it in legal terms is in essence a problem of wording: "Is it an organization, is a collection of individuals, how can be define them collectively?"
However, Barak added, Israel had to "act fast, so both they and the rest of the normative community in the West Bank, which is the majority of the population, won't be left in doubt."
"These things endanger peoples' lives and divert the IDF from its main mission, which is to prepare itself for the [security] challenges and defend the lives of civilians, including residents of the West Bank," the defense minister added.
Barak also stressed that the hilltop youth represented a threat "to the very delicate fiber of our relations with our neighbors. I'm certain that we need to take any step necessary, including emergency legislation, expulsions, and administrative arrests.
"We need to take care of the Jewish terror like we handle the country's crime syndicates, "Barak added.
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