Shin Bet chief warns using agency to fight crime would turn Israel into 'a different state'

Despite Ben-Gvir pressing to get security service involved in Arab sector's rampant violent crime epidemic, Ronen Bar and Justice Ministry believe move won’t prove effective

During a special hearing of the Knesset subcommittee on combating crime in the Arab sector, Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar issued a warning on Wednesday about the use of the internal security agency to combat organized crime and its implications on the character of the State of Israel
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"A state that tends to use its internal security service against every complex problem will turn into a different state," Bar told lawmakers.
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Ronen Bar, Bejamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir
Ronen Bar, Bejamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir
Ronen Bar, Bejamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Retuers/Amir Cohen Pool, Yair Sagi)
The committee ultimately decided to keep the agency out of law enforcement actions, contrary to the demands of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who said during the discussion, "There are all sorts of legislative processes, and they're important. We passed several laws to enable the police to work more efficiently.
"But we need something to treat this now, people are being murdered. That's why I demanded to allow administrative detentions and the Shin Bet's involvement in these investigations," he added, referring to a legal procedure that allows the Israeli authorities to detain individuals without trial, based on classified evidence that is not revealed to the detainee or their legal representative.
The committee ruled that "the Shin Bet will assist the police in its operations against criminal organizations concerning elections in local municipalities, according to its purpose and duties under the law," following a string of murders of mayoral candidates and their associates in Arrab communities.
In many ways, the Shin Bet is already involved in cases of desecration of national symbols or the trafficking of arms that may end up in the hands of terrorists.
The agency is involved in the investigation into the assassination of Abed Alrahman Kashua, the director-general of an Arab municipality in northern Israel, who was murdered on Tuesday. Concerns were raised that Kashua was targeted due to his work as a public figure, which, under the current law, merits the involvement of the Shin Bet in the investigation.
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ד"ר קשוע עבד אלרוחמן
ד"ר קשוע עבד אלרוחמן
Abed Alrahman Kashua
(Photo: Tira Municipality)
During the discussion, Bar noted that the agency doesn't need to be involved in every incident, other than very specific ones. The elections for local municipalities and the involvement of criminal gangs are topics that the Shin Bet brought to the National Security Council's attention over a year ago, as an event that could possibly become heated and violent.
The internal security service cautioned that more public figures could be targeted like Kashua as the October polls approach.
The agency is also involved in the assassination of Ghazi Saab, another Israeli Arab mayoral candidate who was gunned down on Wednesday due to concerns that the nature of the attack on Saab was political.
Ben Gvir, a far-right firebrand who oversees the actions of law enforcement and ran on a law and order platform in the latest election, said, "But we need a lot more. The Shin Bet needs to get involved in all 150 murder cases. Some incidents are still ongoing, and the Shin Bet has technological and investigative advantages," referring to the approximate number of murders recorded in the Arab sector year to date.
Ben Gvir contended that the law allows the government to classify murder cases within the Israeli-Arab community as a matter of national security. This designation permits the Shin Bet to investigate these cases without additional legislative approval.
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איתמר בן גביר
איתמר בן גביר
Itamar Ben-Gvir
(Photo: Elad Gershgorm)
Ben-Gvir sparred with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who opposed the move, accusing her of double standard against Jews who pray at Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
Baharv-Miara said, "We don't make use of the clause." Ben-Gvir retorted, "You use it against dozens of Jews who ascend to the Temple Mount, kneel and pray. I think it's horrible. Why don't you use it against murderers?"
Sources who attended the hearing were left with the impression that the decision to approve the Shin Bet's involvement won’t prove effective since the organization itself opposes the idea, as does the Justice Ministry.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "we must change the equation," during the discussion. According to sources, Netanyahu wants the Shin Bet to be more involved but doesn't intend to force the agency to act.
Ultimately, it was decided that the ongoing discussion on preventive measures – including restraining orders and other means to combat the issue barring administrative detentions - will continue next week.
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