The diplomatic-security cabinet met for four hours Sunday to discuss outlawing the Northern Branch of the local Islamic Movement. At the end of the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Shin Bet security service to give the prosecution any intelligence it has about the movement, so that the prosecution can start putting together the evidence needed to formally ban the group.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the relevant legal parties to formulate evidentiary bases in the coming days that would allow Israel to outlaw the Islamic Movement. A senior official in Jerusalem said that they would continue this discussion in the coming days.
The movement also has a Southern Branch, but that wing is considered less extreme, and there are no plans to outlaw it.
A senior government official said there will be several additional meetings on the issue in the coming days, but so far there seems to be no barrier to outlawing the Northern Branch. He said Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein expressed no opposition to the idea, and while the Shin Bet did voice reservations, they were strictly tactical, relating to the scope of the decision and how it would be implemented.
“Outlawing the Islamic Movement isn’t a legal question; it’s a question of [making] a political decision,” he said.
Any move against the Northern Branch will require several stages. The first stage is to compile evidence that it engages in illegal activity – in this case, primarily incitement to violence.
It’s not clear how much intelligence the Shin Bet has about the movement’s involvement in illegal activity. But a senior Shin Bet official who briefed the full cabinet yesterday morning said the two organizations primarily responsible for inciting the current wave of terror attacks are Hamas and the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch.
Once the Shin Bet gives the prosecution its information, the prosecution will prepare a legal opinion that will be sent to the diplomatic-security cabinet for a decision. If the panel approves outlawing the Northern Branch, the defense minister will then sign an order declaring that branch of the Islamic Movement an illegal organization.
At the same time, the government will have to outlaw various other organizations affiliated with the Northern Branch. The most important of these is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose branches in several Arab countries send money to the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch.
“I’m not willing to tolerate incitement at home,” Netanyahu said at the start of the cabinet meeting. “We’ll use all available tools against the inciters.”
Earlier Sunday, a senior official at the Shin Bet security service said at the weekly Israeli government meeting that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not encouraging terrorism "and is even instructing his security forces to prevent terror attacks as much as possible."
However, according to a senior official that took part in the meeting, the Shin Bet official said the opposite about senior Palestinian Authority and PLO officials. These officials, he said, "are part of the incitement campaign that is exasperating the violence."
Nevertheless, the Shin Bet official stressed that the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, and Hamas, are the main forces of incitement that have led to the current escalation. He added that most of the Palestinians who carried out the attacks over the past few weeks were individuals who were not associated with institutionalized terror networks.