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Israeli security chiefs helpless as government ignores settler violence

Heads of the security agencies fear that without a clear backing of the government to fight Jewish nationalist attacks, settler violence against Palestinian villages would only increase.
Israeli settlers march toward the outpost of Eviatar, near the Palestinian village of Beita, south of Nablus, West Bank, April 10, 2023.

TEL AVIV — Israeli security chiefs are increasingly concerned over the uptick in Jewish attacks and violence against West Bank Palestinians being ignored and even tacitly accepted by Israel’s political leadership. 

The phenomenon has expanded to the point that leading progressive Jewish groups in the United States issued on Monday a joint statement, expressing “growing anguish and horror” over the recent wave of violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop “excusing” and “protecting” the perpetrators. 

In fact, heads of Israel’s three leading defense and law enforcement agencies — the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Shin Bet and the police — had issued an unprecedented public stand to that effect some two weeks ago, designating these attacks on Palestinian villages as "nationalist terrorism" that merits stepped-up countermeasures. 

"The reason they came out publicly against this phenomenon is simple," a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, referring to the joint statement by Israel’s top soldier Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai. “The political echelon is paralyzed. The moderates, including [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, are afraid of the extremist settlers and their henchmen in the government. … Herzi Halevi, Ronen Bar and Yaakov Shabtai are the only ones left to stand in the breach."

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