For years, the Shin Bet demanded that it be given the tools to handle Jewish terrorism in Israel. They asked that laundered language on this topic be abolished. When a Molotov cocktail is thrown into an inhabited home, that’s not called “Price Tag,” and when you burn a field I’s not a “property crime.” It’s blatant terrorism.
But we had to experience the tragedy of the Dawabsheh family being burned alive in Duma, in July 2015, in order for our political and legal ranks to sober up, shake off the pressure exerted by the settler lobby, and internalize the fact that these were not hilltop punks, but Jewish terrorists who pose a danger to the state of Israel.
The result has been the fact that, since December 2015, despite long and difficult months filled with Palestinian stabbing an vehicular attacks, there have been nearly no reported incidents of violent riots and attacks by Jews n Arabs in the territories. This isn’t by happenstance. The Shin Bet was capable of this kind of enforcement before Duma as well. Those who used t say that they couldn’t handle Jewish terrorism unless their hands were untied now seem justified.
The Jewish terror cell whose members have recently been arrested is a generational project. It began operations about 4-5 years ago, with violent action aimed at Arab people in the territories, mostly in the western Binyamin area. The Shin Bet questioned a group of youths from the town of Nahliel, later releasing them and removing their names from its terrorist watchlists. One of them was later drafted into the IDF.
The Shin Bet apparently did not see the former-suspect as a threat, and didn’t take action to prevent his enlistment. His military service was irrelevant to his alleged terrorist activities, since he didn’t steal any military equipment or expose outside sources to classified material.
His group was re-awakened in October 2015, right after the murder of Naama and Eitam Henkin. It was now comprised of six members, some veterans from the older generation and some minors – the next generation of Jewish terrorists. The night after the murder, they perpetrated two revenge attacks by setting fire to vehicles. The soldier is suspected of taking part in these.
In November, the minors of the group took the reins, committing what’s being defined as an attempted murder: Throwing a Molotov cocktail into an inhabited home. In December, they threw military-grade gas grenades, found in riot dispersal areas, into another inhabited home. Between these incidents, they also threw stones and defaced vehicles and other property.
These violent attacks were a response to the arrest of Meir Ettinger’s group, suspected of being responsible for the Duma attack, by the Shin Bet. In December, the Shin Bet issued administrative restriction orders for the Nahliel group, and the attacks stopped. Recently, during April, members of the group were arrested, questioned, and the Shin Bet managed to find evidence for indictments against them.
The connection between the Nahiel and Ettinger groups (Ettinger’s is nicknamed “The Gideons” in some circles) is a matter of personal acquaintance, but not operational contact. Ettinger’s group keeps its information highly restricted. The Nahliel group also held a certain level of compartmentalization, but their actions aren’t fueled by the same extremist, well-articulated ideology of Ettinger’s group. The Nahlielians are a lone, local cell, whose goal is to harm Arabs in the area, mostly for reasons of vengeance.
No doubt, defining the Jewish terror squads as illegal organizations following the Duma affair was a watershed moment. This definition enabled the Shin Bet to interrogate the suspects as they would Palestinian suspects, and to establish well-based indictments. Despite the criticism over the issues of administrative orders and prevention of attorney consultations for ten days following the arrest, these steps have proven themselves in action.
The Nahliel terror cell is not the last, but the defense forces’ sense in the field is that the Shin Bet’s Jewish Division has an ability to deter violent Jewish anarchists these days. Take your foot off of them for a minute, though, and they’ll raise their venomous heads once more.