Shin Bet Head Says There Is Not Sufficient Cause to Outlaw Islamic Movement

Contrary to Netanyahu's movement, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen cites evidence linking the group to incitement, but not terror, so only the organization’s funding sources should be targeted.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Sheik Ra'ad Salah, right, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, at a protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in June.
Sheik Ra'ad Salah, right, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, at a protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in June.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen has told the security cabinet he objects to declaring the Islamic Movement’s northern branch an illegal organization, according to two ministers who attended security cabinet briefings over the past month.

Cohen said the Shin Bet had no intelligence linking the group to terrorism.

In recent weeks the security cabinet has held meetings on whether action should be taken against the organization because of its involvement in incitement regarding the Temple Mount. Another meeting was held yesterday but no decisions were made.

According to one minister, Cohen said the northern branch had more than 10,000 members, and it was neither wise nor practical to declare all of them criminals overnight. He said this would do more harm than good.

Another minister quoted Cohen as saying the focus should be on pressuring the organization’s leaders. While there is no evidence directly linking the group to terror, there is evidence of its involvement in incitement to violence.

Cohen suggested cracking down on the northern branch’s funding sources, particularly Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the Arab world and Europe, the minister said.

Both ministers said that in this Cohen argued with ministers who felt the group should be outlawed. During discussions on this and other issues, Cohen never hesitated to take positions contrary to those of ministers in the forum.

For example, they said he did not support returning the bodies of terrorists to their families, contrary to the stance of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Cohen also supported destroying the homes of terrorists, arguing that this was a major deterrent to potential terrorists.

The Shin Bet declined to comment for this article.

For more than two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he wants to outlaw the northern branch. In 2013 he set up a special team to examine the issue, but nothing came of the deliberations.

When the current wave of violence surrounding the Temple Mount began in September, Netanyahu raised the possibility again.

Two weeks ago, during a visit to the Gaza Division, he said he planned to push legislation on the issue, but discussions on the issue are moving slowly. A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that as a first step a decision might be made to declare the Muslim Brotherhood illegal.

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