Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon supports administrative detention for extreme right-wing Jewish activists in the West Bank. His position follows the recent upswing in violence against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in general and, specifically, events at the Yitzhar settlement last week, when an Israel Defense Forces outpost was ransacked and Border Police were attacked. However, Ya’alon believes it must be used only in cases where the Shin Bet security service has evidence against a suspect that is material but not yet sufficient for charges to be issued.
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The possibility of renewing the use of administrative detention against right-wing activists has been discussed in a number of forums since the incidents at Yitzhar. The defense establishment rarely issues administrative detention orders against Jews. The last time was in 2010, against Ephraim Khantsis – an immigrant from the United States who was suspected of planning terror attacks. Shortly after the order was issued, Khantsis left the country after his lawyer reached an understanding with the Shin Bet.
In 2007, an administrative detention order was issued against a resident of Yitzhar, but within a few days it was changed to a number of days’ house arrest.
There is support within the Shin Bet and the IDF for the selective use of administrative detention for right-wing extremists, which they see as an effective tool that also has a deterrent effect. The main instrument used by the defense establishment in recent years against West Bank settlers who are suspected of destroying Palestinian property and vandalizing mosques (in so-called “price tag” attacks) is a court order banning the individuals from the territories. A total of 13 such orders were issued last year, with four of them still in effect.
In addition to Ya’alon, a number of other senior cabinet ministers have expressed support in recent days for limited use of administrative detentions, describing them as a necessary measure to rein in “Jewish ultranationalist terror” against Palestinian and Israeli defense targets.
In discussions with defense leaders, Ya’alon said that last week’s incidents at Yitzhar constituted terror and must be dealt with accordingly. “It is an intolerable phenomenon and must be stopped completely,” he said, adding that everyone involved must be arrested and prosecuted.
At an Israel Air Force ceremony in the Negev last Wednesday, Ya’alon said the state would act to take care of whoever is feeding the offenders with hatred and sending them to carry out acts of terror.
Late Thursday night, a company of Border Police troops seized control of the yeshiva in Yitzhar. They are expected to remain in the building for several weeks at least, after which the situation will be reevaluated.