Right-wing Extremists' Growing Influence on the West Bank Is Worrisome

That sensitive IDF information is available to settlers is known; but when sensitive data falls into the hands of extremists the problem seems more urgent.

The indictment submitted on Sunday against five right-wing extremists provides a unique view of violent Jewish protest activity on the West Bank. The indictment applies to members of a gang who carry out attacks on mosques and Palestinian property, Shin Bet security service officials and police investigators suspect. The indictment's review of the systematic fashion in which right-wing zealots monitor Israel Defense Forces and police preparations to evacuate illegal settlement outposts is worrisome, as is the description of the scope of the extremist right-wing group's influence on the West Bank.

Last year, the leak of classified IDF documents to Haaretz by Anat Kam, who was motivated by left-wing sentiments, dominated media coverage of security breaches. On Sunday, for the first time, the state exposed problems it faces defending classified information against encroachments perpetrated by the political right. That sensitive IDF information is readily available to West Bank settlers is well known; but when such sensitive data fall into the hands of extremists who are poised to hurl stones at an IDF deputy battalion commander, the problem of keeping secret information under wraps seems more urgent. In order to closely monitor IDF preparation for the evacuation of settlement outposts, right-wing activists maintain close contacts with a large number of sources from IDF units. Revelations in this indictment explain why Brigadier General Nitzan Alon, who is designated to be the IDF's central region commander, has recommended that soldiers who have clear ideological affiliations be kept at some remove from classified information regarding outpost evacuation. Internal investigations carried out by the Central Command with the aim of identifying the sources of leaks to right-wing activities have not produced results until now. Why the Military Police have not formally launched an investigation into the leaks remains unclear.

Right-wing activists in Jerusalem court - Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi

IDF officers are satisfied with steps taken to keep sensitive information under wraps at the time of the evacuation of the Mitzpeh Yitzhar outpost, which was carried out not long after the night when unruly right-wing activists disturbed affairs at the Ephraim Brigade headquarters. These steps to prevent information leaks were akin to procedures undertaken in 2003, when soldiers evacuated an outpost close to Yitzhar; it seems that these procedures were simply neglected in years after 2003 - until recently.

Four of the five newly indicted extremists were expelled from the West Bank last year, due to suspicion of involvement in violent activity. The fifth man was summoned in the past to a series of meetings with Shin Bet officials.

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