Shin Bet Chief Must Name 'Those Responsible' for Incitement

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman and Benjamin Netanyahu
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The chilling warning by Shin Bet security service chief Nadav Argaman, and his demand that decision makers emphatically call to end the incitement and violent discourse, don’t exempt him from direct responsibility for preventing the outcome of this threatening discourse. Just as the Shin Bet is authorized to arrest, investigate, threaten and imprison Palestinian suspects in administrative detention merely for writing social media posts calling for violent resistance to the occupation, it is legally authorized to protect orderly government processes when they are threatened by domestic gangs. The Shin Bet is well aware of who is doing the incitement, and we can assume that its profiles of potential assassins are more accurate than those it had in 1995.

Although Argaman displayed courage in calling out the violent discourse, apparently after he realized that those being warned are ignoring him, he very disappointingly refrained from naming those responsible. After all, he wouldn’t be revealing any state secrets if he were to do so. “Those responsible” are not ghosts. They appear on public television and radio, on their personal Facebook pages, in overt tweets, in speeches in the Knesset and sermons in synagogues.

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Just like Argaman would not suffice with calling on Palestinian leaders, opinion makers, clerics and educators to please stop the incitement, he cannot declare his innocence if he distinguishes between the incitement to terror running rampant on the other side of the Green Line and that which is threatening the lives of civilians and elected officials inside Israel.

If a minister, a lawmaker or a prime minister is assassinated, Argaman can’t defend himself by saying, “We warned you,” “we called to calm the discourse,” or “we noted the danger.” “Did you have specific advance intelligence? And if so, what did you do with it?” the chairman of the commission of inquiry established after the murder will ask.

“There was no specific intelligence, but what we did know, which was serious enough, we gave those responsible. I even issued a public warning,” Argaman will reply. “But those responsible for you are the ones who were inciting. They’re the ones you warned against. Did you expect them to calm things down? To stop it?” the chairman will ask.

“And what did you want? Did you want me to arrest the prime minister? [Former lawmaker] Osnat Mark? Rabbi Haim Druckman? In a democratic country I have to follow the instructions of the prime minister, to whom I’m subordinate. And there’s also that matter of freedom of speech,” Argaman will reply.

“Even when the prime minister himself is a ticking bomb? When democracy is about to explode in the faces of the country’s citizens?” one of the committee members will ask.

After Argaman, the attorney general will testify. He will be asked to tell what he knew and when, and what he did. Did he tell the police to summon lawmakers and the prime minister for questioning? Before the assassination, did he even warn the prime minister and explain to him his responsibility and that of his ministers? Does he believe incitement to murder is less important than receiving bribes?

“We had no basis to say there was a possible connection between the murder and the declarations of the prime minister, government ministers, rabbis or lawmakers,” the attorney general will reply. “But the Shin Bet chief warned you, perhaps he even gave you material, you read newspapers, you watch television, you had the authority,” the committee chairman will reprimand him. “Wasn’t there a reason to arrest any of them? At least to warn him publicly, by name?”

The Shin Bet chief, the attorney general, the state prosecutor, the police commissioner, the heads of organizations in charge of investigation, detection and information gathering — dozens and perhaps hundreds of people in senior positions see and hear the voices, recall the not-so-distant history, understand that after one political assassination the next one will be much easier. Now — and not after the fact — they must do everything necessary to prevent the potential terrorists from “doing everything necessary” to prevent the formation of the new government.

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