Shin Bet Chief Says Palestinian Authority Losing Grip on Increasing West Bank Violence

Speaking at a counter-terrorism conference, Ronen Bar said Palestinian youth are targeted by terror groups on social media, which has become a new battlefield for Israeli security organizations

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar speaks at a counter-terrorism conference at Reichman University, in Herzliya, Israel.
Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar speaks at a counter-terrorism conference at Reichman University, in Herzliya, Israel.Credit: Moti Milrod
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar warned Sunday about the increasing number of shootouts in the West Bank and a wider loss of control by the nominally in-charge Palestinian Authority.

"We have entered a sort of closed circle," Bar said at a counter-terrorism conference at Reichman University in Herzliya." Our people are making arrests every night, and are coming under fire," adding that "the price is also Palestinian casualties." According to Bar, there were over 130 shooting incidents in the West Bank this year so far, compared to 98 in 2021.

"We made more than 2,000 arrests, and significantly increased the number of arrests of illegal drug dealers," he said.

Bar, who explained increased IDF activity in West Bank city centers as a result of the PA's weakening grip, is not the first Israeli official to sound the alarm and call to strengthen Abbas' Authority.

Last week, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi attributed the rise in West Bank attacks to the Palestinian security forces' "lack of governance" in parts of the West Bank, which he said resulted in a fertile ground for the growth of terrorism.

According to Bar, the vacuum created by the absence of the Authority's governance is being played out on social media. He said that the lack of influential patriarchal, tribal and governmental figures on social media "challenges the status of the school and the teacher," adding that "a decline in governance damages trust in the country and its institutions, which are seen as less relevant."

Israeli security forces and Palestinians clash in the West Bank village of Rujeib, in August.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP

As a result, dealing with incitement online is a "new battlefield" for the security organizations: "The algorithms study us better every day and can identify feelings of rage and violence… The state and the public, especially the youth, remain very, very exposed."

The head of the Shin Bet warned that young people are being targeted with incitement, and that it is therefore no wonder that "in the violent incidents that we have been experiencing lately, from rioters during Operation Breaking Dawn, the Temple Mount riots in Ramadan and also parts of the 'hilltop settler youth' – we find [perpetrators] aged 14-20.

"This is a generation without shepherds," Bar said, adding that terror groups spotted the potential of what he dubbed as 'the terror of inspiration,' were taking advantage of the situation and advancing an agenda without having to bear the consequences.

But Bar's comments did not end in the West Bank and Jerusalem. He explained that according to Shin Bet intelligence, extremist discourse and instability in Israel further encourage "the countries on the axis of evil," terror groups as well as lone attacks.

The Shin Bet, he added, can only warn, but not handle the issue. This, he concluded, "is in the hands of each and every one of us."

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