Police, Shin Bet to bolster coordination
Following an upsurge of threats from far-right extremists on government officials, police will tighten its coordination with the Knesset Guard and Shin Bet's personal security wing, Police Commissioner Chief Moshe Karadi announced Sunday.
During an urgent meeting between Karadi and representatives of the Shin Bet and the Knesset security, it was decided however that the current security patterns will not be revised.
According Karadi?s decision, police district commanders will be informed ahead of time of events where ministers and MKs will take part. Police officers will hold special evaluation meeting before such events, to decide if it was needed to bolster security to prevent violent incidents.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed his outrage at the threatening letters sent by far-right extremists to government officials, and called for "practical steps" to be taken to counter the phenomenon.
He instructed Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to formulate steps to prevent threats against ministers and elected officials, and said he intends to discuss the issue in the Knesset plenum this week, Israel Radio reported.
Sharon also intends to hold a special meeting on the matter in two weeks with the participation of Mazuz and the head of the Shin Bet security service.
Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer warned during the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday of the potential for an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by right-wing extremists.
"A month before the murder of [slain former prime minister Yitzahk] Rabin I clarified, exactly as I am doing now, the importance of holding an organized discussion of the issue - as we do for every other issue - but Rabin shut my mouth and no one else listened to me," Ben-Eliezer said.
Rabin was shot dead by far-right extremist Yigal Amir during a peace rally in Tel Aviv in 1995. Amir was opposed to Rabin's policies on negotiations with the Palestinians.
A few hours after the cabinet meeting, senior police officials met to discuss the threats, Israel Radio reported. They had previously decided to increase security for government officials at public events, and Knesset security will also be upgraded this week, the radio said.
Ben-Eliezer, who was born in Iraq, presented to the cabinet a threatening letter that read: "Arab blood is flowing through your veins, and for this you must leave Israel and return to Iraq to defend Saddam Hussein. You are contemptible. You are a miserable Iraqi with Arab-Nazi blood flowing through your veins."
He said such letters cannot be ignored.
"I am telling you: They will try to kill the prime minister. It starts with attacking soldiers. We are a country of law and we must examine this matter thoroughly," Ben-Eliezer said.
Sharon said the threats constitute "an extremely serious situation."
"I was ashamed to read the threatening letters that were sent to you," the prime minister told Ben-Eliezer. "This is an extremely serious situation. It's not an option that such letters are sent and nothing is done about it. I am shocked by this savagery. We need to take practical steps."
"It is not possible that such threatening letter can be sent to ministers and law enforcement bodies ignores the matter," he added to Livni.
Minister without Portfolio Haim Ramon criticized Mazuz, who was not present at the discussion. He argued that the failure of the State Attorney's Office to deal with incitement reminded him of the period preceding Rabin's assassination.
Likud MK Meir Sheetrit said that he had received dozens of letters with threats to his life because of his support for the disengagement plan, but had not publicized the matter because he did not want to worry his family.
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told about how he had been attacked last week while visiting Kfar Chabad, where he was verbally insulted and had his tires slashed.
"Netanyahu is a friend of Chabad," commented Communications Minister Dalia Itzik (Labor). "If they attack him this way, they will completely tear me apart."
Shin Bet personal security unit chief resignsThe head of the Shin Bet's personal security wing, "D," will leave his post in May despite the agency's prediction that threats against senior government and defense figures will increase in the period leading up to disengagement from Gaza and the northern Gaza Strip.
The internal security service expects these threats to focus on Sharon.
The incoming head of the personal security wing, "T," has already begun studying the various aspects of his new position, including the security arrangements surrounding Israeli representatives overseas.
T, from a kibbutz in the south of the country and a former senior officer in the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, headed a Shin Bet personal protection unit in the late 1990s.
Outgoing Shin Bet director Avi Dichter decided upon T's nomination to the post. Dichter headed the unit in the period following the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Responsibility for Sharon's security is shared by the Shin Bet's Jewish division in the non-Arab affairs wing and the personal security division. General responsibility, however, is carried by the Shin Bet director.
According to defense establishment figures, Dichter's decision to nominate a new chief for personal security was unrelated to the disengagement plan and the increase in threats to Sharon, other government ministers and Israel Defense Forces officers.
D served as unit head for four years. In addition to T's nomination, new appointments have been made to the heads of the Shin Bet's southern district responsible for the Gaza Strip and to the Arab affairs division.
D's full name has been published overseas in information pamphlets and in internet sites associated with professional conferences dealing with security issues. Even though D's identity has been revealed outside of Israel, the Shin Bet is forbidden to publicize his identifying details inside the country.
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