Netanyahu Wants to Outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement

PM thinks the group should be treated like the Jewish extremist Kach movement, but Justice Ministry opposes plan.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Sheik Ra'ad Salah, right, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, sits in the courtroom ahead of his trial at the Jerusalem Magistrates court on April 10, 2014. Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting on Sunday that the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, headed by Sheik Ra’ad Salah, should be outlawed, like the Jewish extreme right-wing movement Kach, which in 1994 was declared a terror organization, according to three sources who were present at the meeting.

Netanyahu spoke during a discussion about forming a special interministerial committee for Arab sector affairs. During the discussion Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz asked for the floor and said that along with activity to increase the equality of Arab citizens of the state, there should be activity to “neutralize the extremist factors,” such as outlawing the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.

According to sources who were present at the meeting, Netanyahu said in response to Katz that he has already formed an interministerial team that is supposed to examine the subject. Netanyahu turned to Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit and asked him about the team’s progress. Mandelblit replied that the subject is stuck because the Justice Ministry is opposed to the move.

Netanyahu was angry and asked about the basis for the opposition. He emphasized that in the past there was no problem with outlawing Kach, and therefore there should be no problem with doing the same thing in the case of the Islamic Movement.

Katz remarked that the opposition of the Justice Ministry is absurd. “They’ve been banned in all the countries in the region,” he said, referring to the status of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. “Only in Israel do they freely incite against the existence of the state. There has to be a stop to that.”

Calls to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement have been heard several times in recent years, mainly from right-wing MKs. The subject was examined in 2002 during the term of the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and was even supported by the Shin Bet security services, but in the end no decision was made on the subject.

In March, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court sentenced movement leader Sheik Ra’ad Salah to eight months in prison for incitement to violence. During the cabinet meeting the ministers approved the appointment of the interministerial committee for the non-Jewish sector and of Science Minister Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid) as deputy chairman of the committee. The committee comprises 15 ministers, and regular participants will include PMO director general Harel Locker, Finance Ministry budget director Amir Levy, and director of the authority for the economic development of the minorities sector in the PMO, Ayman Saif. The committee will deal with all the issues related to the Arab sector, including: education, transportation, employment, health, industry, economic development.

Perry said after the meeting that the government must bring about a revolution in allocating resources to the Arab sector, and work to achieve full equality among all Israeli citizens. “I intend to act to repair the injustices caused to the Arab sector in Israel throughout the years,” said Perry. A member of the committee, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, welcomed the formation of the committee and said that “This is a move that will bring an end [to the dreams] of the various people who fantasize about a transfer [of Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian Authority]."