Israel Must Take Different Legal Tack on Price-tag Attacks, Says ex-Shin Bet Deputy Chief

The Shin Bet can get good intelligence but is often stymied by extremists' refusal to talk, says Yitzhak Ilan.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The legal tools Israel wields against right-wing Jewish extremists aren't suitable any more, says Yitzhak Ilan, the former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service.

The attacks, called "price-tag" incidents, are classified as assaults carried out by extremist settlers against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, along with other targets such as the Israel Defense Forces.

Ilan, who also served as the head of the Shin Bet’s investigations branch and the branch in charge of the agency's Jewish Division tasked with preventing terror attacks by Jewish extremists, spoke at a conference Sunday morning at the Institute for National Strategic Studies. He discussed preventative security, which is meant to prevent terror attacks within Israel, and how the Shin Bet operates in regards to it.

The Shin Bet has come under attack for supposedly failing to prevent a string of price-tag attacks, but Ilan insisted that the organization has maintained relatively good intelligence. The problem, he said, was translating that intelligence into hard evidence.

The reason the Shin Bet finds it difficult to provide evidence is that the right-wing activists keep silent during their interrogations, he said. This, coupled with an unwillingness to reveal the intelligence sources recruited by the Shin Bet, has caused much of the issue.

“The legal tools employed against these activists are not appropriate for the present situation and there is room for a revision of the matter,” said Ilan. He also warned about the actions of “lone wolves,” such as in the cases of Yitzhak Rabin assassin Yigal Amir or Yaakov (Jack) Tytell, who was sentenced last month to two life sentences for killing Arabs.

Ilan also spoke about Shin Bet source Avishai Raviv, who was part of a Shin Bet team meant to infiltrate the right-wing in order to discredit them. Raviv distributed photographs of Rabin in an SS uniform and was said to have failed to prevent his assassination, despite knowing of Amir's plans.

He was acquitted based on his defense that he was just doing his job, and the events got out of control.

Raviv had not been granted permission for his actions, Ilan said on Sunday, and he was reprimanded for them after.

A Catholic monk standing in a doorway of the Latrun Trappist Monastery where vandals spray-painted with anti-Christian and pro-settler graffiti, Sept. 4, 2012.Credit: AP