Ronen Bar officially assumed his post as the new head of the Shin Bet security service on Wednesday, at a ceremony held at the Prime Minister’s Office. Bar replaces Nadav Argaman, who held the post for the last five and a half years. Bar said that his organization would not stand by idly in the face of violence in the Arab community, adding that the organization “would achieve the right balance between bolstering the police and our increased involvement.” He called it “a mission of national importance.”
Bar referred to Iran in his speech, saying that “the Iranian threat will continue to figure at the core of our operations in Israel, overseas and in the cyber world.” Bar also referred to the work of his organization which, in his words, is at a complex and delicate juncture of various basic rights, the written ones of democracy and the unwritten ones appearing in the charter of human rights, and mainly at the intersection of the right to security and the right to privacy and human dignity.
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He added: “I hope that at every such decision-making crossroad we’ll have the power, courage and wisdom to correctly balance these components, and that we’ll be able to judiciously fulfill the principles of a democracy that is defending itself.”
Outgoing Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman said that the absence of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and some steps taken by its head, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have led to the weakening of the PA, both in economic terms and in public consciousness.
“The current reality is a strong Hamas and a weak Palestinian Authority,” he said. “The relative calm we’ve experienced in recent years in the West Bank is a deceptive one. There are constant attempts to carry out terror attacks. The quiet stems from the quality of preemptive operations, not from the lack of trying.”
Argaman added that “Israel must find a way to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority and promote economic projects, aided by the international community.”
The outgoing Shin Bet head also said that “Iran is the fountainhead of every dangerous incident in the Middle East, ranging from terror to nuclear policy. Iran drives and oils the wheels of terror with money, war materiel, direction and the forging of alliances between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, as well as operating armed militias in Iraq and Yemen. Resolute action must be taken in order to curb its abilities in the Middle East.”
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the ceremony that “Israel is facing an enormous terror machine that doesn’t rest for one moment. We can’t afford to let our guard down for one moment either. We don’t have the option of allowing the enemy to grow more powerful or to allow terrorist organizations to become terrorist states with armies and tens of thousands of missiles.” Bennett added that Israel “must strive for a result that leaves no room for interpretation, one that makes the enemy stop trying us again.”
The government approved Bar’s nomination this week after the Goldberg Commission, which deals with the approval of senior appointments in the civil service, determined that there were no impediments to his appointment. The commission ruled that there was no basis for questioning his probity or his appointment, after asking Bar about an anonymous letter which claimed that he had committed two missteps during his years of service in the organization. Bar presented the commission with a detailed version meant to belie these claims.
Bar, who is 55, has filled several roles in the Shin Bet. In 2011, he was appointed the head of its operations branch. In 2018, Argaman appointed Bar as his deputy, after Bar had served for two years as the head of a division charged with strengthening the organization. Bar is considered as someone with good relations with Israel Defense Forces brass, and this may have contributed to Bennett’s decision to appoint him to his new post.
During his military service, Bar was in the General Staff’s elite reconnaissance unit. Several years after leaving the army, he joined the Shin Bet’s operations branch, where he fought and commanded units during operations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Lebanon. He has a B.A. in political science and philosophy from Tel Aviv University and an M.A. in public administration from Harvard University. He is married with three children. His term was supposed to end last May but was extended by previous Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and later by Bennett.