The Unpunished: How Extremists Took Over Israel After 50 years of failure to stop violence and terrorism against Palestinians by Jewish ultranationalists, lawlessness has become the law.

One of my theories about Judaism is that the most radical, most ethnocentric Jews tend to provide the direction for the entire Jewish community in the long run: “Zionism and the Internal Dynamics of Judaism.” This has happened once again in contemporary Israel and is supported enthusiastically by the mainstream Jewish community in the U.S. as epitomized by the ADL, AIPAC, etc. See also the section “American Friends” below; the Trump administration has been the worst U.S. administration: Mideast policy was formulated by Orthodox Jew Jared Kushner and epitomized by pro-settlement fanatic Ambassador David Friedman. For example, “With its overwhelming victory in the Arab-​Israeli War of 1967, Israel more than doubled the amount of land it controlled, seizing new territory in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Now it faced a choice: Would the new land become part of Israel or be bargained away as part of a future Palestinian state? To a cadre of young Israelis imbued with messianic zeal, the answer was obvious. The acquisition of the animated a religious political movement — Gush Emunim, or “Bloc of the Faithful” — that was determined to settle the newly conquered lands.” And yet my critic Nathan Cofnas claims that Jews are not particularly ethnocentric.

And realize that this psychological intensity is also characteristic of the activist Jewish community in the U.S. (see also here), whether it’s directed toward supporting Israel or promoting Third World immigration and multiculturalism in the U.S.

There are also several examples of Jewish martyrs discussed here. I discuss Jewish martyrdom briefly in this paper from 2001 as an example of extreme ethnocentrism. How many of us would be willing to do the same? Of course, in the cases discussed here, they knew they had a lot of support in the government and would have their sentences shortened to basically slaps on the wrist. They believed correctly that they were on “the right side of history,” so that their death or prison sentences would likely aid their cause. The same cannot be said at this point for the West.

This is a very long read but well worth it. You can listen to the article by clicking on this link and scrolling down.

The Unpunished: New York Times May 16, 2024

This story is told in three parts. The first documents the unequal system of justice that grew around Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The second shows how extremists targeted not only Palestinians but also Israeli officials trying to make peace. The third explores how this movement gained control of the state itself. Taken together, they tell the story of how a radical ideology moved from the fringes to the heart of Israeli political power.

By the end of October, it was clear that no one was going to help the villagers of Khirbet Zanuta. A tiny Palestinian community, some 150 people perched on a windswept hill in the West Bank near Hebron, it had long faced threats from the Jewish settlers who had steadily encircled it. But occasional harassment and vandalism, in the days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, escalated into beatings and murder threats. The villagers made appeal after appeal to the Israeli police and to the ever-present Israeli military, but their calls for protection went largely unheeded, and the attacks continued with no consequences. So one day the villagers packed what they could, loaded their families into trucks and disappeared.

Who bulldozed the village after that is a matter of dispute. The Israeli Army says it was the settlers; a senior Israeli police officer says it was the army. Either way, soon after the villagers left, little remained of Khirbet Zanuta besides the ruins of a clinic and an elementary school. One wall of the clinic, leaning sideways, bore a sign saying that it had been funded by an agency of the European Union providing “humanitarian support for Palestinians at risk of forcible transfer in the West Bank.” Near the school, someone had planted the flag of Israel as another kind of announcement: This is Jewish land now.

Such violence over the decades in places like Khirbet Zanuta is well documented. But protecting the people who carry out that violence is the dark secret of Israeli justice. The long arc of harassment, assault and murder of Palestinians by Jewish settlers is twinned with a shadow history, one of silence, avoidance and abetment by Israeli officials. For many of those officials, it is Palestinian terrorism that most threatens Israel. But in interviews with more than 100 people — current and former officers of the Israeli military, the National Israeli Police and the Shin Bet domestic security service; high-ranking Israeli political officials, including four former prime ministers; Palestinian leaders and activists; Israeli human rights lawyers; American officials charged with supporting the Israeli-Palestinian partnership — we found a different and perhaps even more destabilizing threat. A long history of crime without punishment, many of those officials now say, threatens not only Palestinians living in the occupied territories but also the State of Israel itself.
ImageA roadblock near a Palestinian village.
After Oct. 7, some settler reservists began manning unauthorized roadblocks in full I.D.F. uniform, an open but usually unpunished violation of orders.Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

Many of the people we interviewed, some speaking anonymously, some speaking publicly for the first time, offered an account not only of Jewish violence against Palestinians dating back decades but also of an Israeli state that has systematically and increasingly ignored that violence. It is an account of a sometimes criminal nationalistic movement that has been allowed to operate with impunity and gradually move from the fringes to the mainstream of Israeli society. It is an account of how voices within the government that objected to the condoning of settler violence were silenced and discredited. And it is a blunt account, told for the first time by Israeli officials themselves, of how the occupation came to threaten the integrity of their country’s democracy. …

The interviews, along with classified documents written in recent months, reveal a government at war with itself. One document describes a meeting in March, when Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, the head of Israel’s Central Command, responsible for the West Bank, gave a withering account of the efforts by Bezalel Smotrich — an ultraright leader and the official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government with oversight over the West Bank — to undermine law enforcement in the occupied territory. Since Smotrich took office, Fox wrote, the effort to clamp down on illegal settlement construction has dwindled “to the point where it has disappeared.” Moreover, Fox said, Smotrich and his allies were thwarting the very measures to enforce the law that the government had promised Israeli courts it would take.

This is a story, pieced together and told in full for the first time, that leads to the heart of Israel. But it begins in the West Bank, in places like Khirbet Zanuta. From within the village’s empty ruins, there is a clear view across the valley to a tiny Jewish outpost called Meitarim Farm. Built in 2021, the farm has become a base of operations for settler attacks led by Yinon Levi, the farm’s owner. Like so many of the Israeli outposts that have been set up throughout the West Bank in recent years, Meitarim Farm is illegal. It is illegal under international law, which most experts say doesn’t recognize Israeli settlements in occupied land. It is illegal under Israeli law, like most settlements built since the 1990s.

Few efforts are made to stop the building of these outposts or the violence emanating from them. Indeed, one of Levi’s day jobs was running an earthworks company, and he has worked with the Israel Defense Forces to bulldoze at least one Palestinian village in the West Bank. As for the victims of that violence, they face a confounding and defeating system when trying to get relief. Villagers seeking help from the police typically have to file a report in person at an Israeli police station, which in the West Bank are almost exclusively located inside the settlements themselves. After getting through security and to the station, they sometimes wait for hours for an Arabic translator, only to be told they don’t have the right paperwork or sufficient evidence to submit a report. As one senior Israeli military official told us, the police “exhaust Palestinians so they won’t file complaints.”

And yet in November, with no protection from the police or the military, the former residents of Khirbet Zanuta and five nearby villages chose to test whether justice was still possible by appealing directly to Israel’s Supreme Court. In a petition, lawyers for the villagers, from Haqel, an Israeli human rights organization, argued that days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, a raiding party that included settlers and Israeli soldiers assaulted village residents, threatened murder and destroyed property throughout the village. They stated that the raid was part of “a mass transfer of ancient Palestinian communities,” one in which settlers working hand in hand with soldiers are taking advantage of the current war in Gaza to achieve the longer-standing goal of “cleansing” parts of the West Bank, aided by the “sweeping and unprecedented disregard” of the state and its “de facto consent to the massive acts of deportation.”

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and the relief the villagers are seeking — that the law be enforced — might seem modest. But our reporting reveals the degree to which decades of history are stacked against them: After 50 years of crime without punishment, in many ways the violent settlers and the state have become one.

Iskhak Jabarin near a pile of rubble.

Iskhak Jabarin near his home in Shab al Butum. He is part of a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court seeking protection from settlers, including those from Avigayil, the settlement behind him at right.Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

The devastating Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, the ongoing crisis of Israeli hostages and the grinding Israeli invasion and bombardment of the Gaza Strip that followed may have refocused the world’s attention on Israel’s ongoing inability to address the question of Palestinian autonomy. But it is in the West Bank where the corrosive long-term effects of the occupation on Israeli law and democracy are most apparent.

A sample of three dozen cases in the months since Oct. 7 shows the startling degree to which the legal system has decayed. In all the cases, involving misdeeds as diverse as stealing livestock and assault and arson, not a single suspect was charged with a crime; in one case, a settler shot a Palestinian in the stomach while an Israel Defense Forces soldier looked on, yet the police questioned the shooter for only 20 minutes, and never as a criminal suspect, according to an internal Israeli military memo. During our review of the cases, we listened to recordings of Israeli human rights activists calling the police to report various crimes against Palestinians. In some of the recordings, the police refused to come to the scene, claiming they didn’t know where the villages were; in one case, they mocked the activists as “anarchists.” A spokesman for the Israeli National Police declined to respond to repeated queries about our findings.

The violence and impunity that these cases demonstrate existed long before Oct. 7. In nearly every month before October, the rate of violent incidents was higher than during the same month in the previous year. And Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, looking at more than 1,600 cases of settler violence in the West Bank between 2005 and 2023, found that just 3 percent ended in a conviction. Ami Ayalon, the head of Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000 — speaking out now because of his concern about Israel’s systemic failure to enforce the law — says this singular lack of consequences reflects the indifference of the Israeli leadership going back years. “The cabinet, the prime minister,” he says, “they signal to the Shin Bet that if a Jew is killed, that’s terrible. If an Arab is killed, that’s not good, but it’s not the end of the world.”

Ayalon’s assessment was echoed by many other officials we interviewed. Mark Schwartz, a retired American three-star general, was the top military official working at the United States Embassy in Jerusalem from 2019 to 2021, overseeing international support efforts for the partnership between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “There’s no accountability,” he says now of the long history of settler crimes and heavy-handed Israeli operations in the West Bank. “These things eat away at trust and ultimately the stability and security of Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s undeniable.”

A map of Israel delineating Haifa, Tel Aviv, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Hebron and the Gaza Strip.
After the Arab-​Israeli War of 1967, Israel controlled new territory in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. In 1979, it agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.Credit…The New York Times

How did a young nation turn so quickly on its own democratic ideals, and at what price? Any meaningful answer to these questions has to take into account how a half-century of lawless behavior that went largely unpunished propelled a radical form of ultranationalism to the center of Israeli politics. This is the history that is told here in three parts. In Part I, we describe the origins of a religious movement that established Jewish settlements in the newly won territories of Gaza and the West Bank during the 1970s. In Part II, we recount how the most extreme elements of the settler movement began targeting not only Palestinians but also Israeli leaders who tried to make peace with them. And in Part III, we show how the most established members of Israel’s ultraright, unpunished for their crimes, gained political power in Israel, even as a more radical generation of settlers vowed to eliminate the Israeli state altogether.

Many Israelis who moved to the West Bank did so for reasons other than ideology, and among the settlers, there is a large majority who aren’t involved in violence or other illegal acts against Palestinians. And many within the Israeli government fought to expand the rule of law into the territories, with some success. But they also faced harsh pushback, with sometimes grave personal consequences. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s efforts in the 1990s, on the heels of the First Intifada, to make peace with Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, gave rise to a new generation of Jewish terrorists, and they ultimately cost him his life.

The disagreement over how to handle the occupied territories and their residents has bred a complex and sometimes opaque system of law enforcement. At its heart are two separate and unequal systems of justice: one for Jews and another for Palestinians [but the Israeli apologists claim Israel is not an apartheid state].

The West Bank is under the command of the I.D.F., which means that Palestinians are subject to a military law that gives the I.D.F. and the Shin Bet considerable authority. They can hold suspects for extended periods without trial or access to either a lawyer or the evidence against them. They can wiretap, conduct secret surveillance, hack into databases and gather intelligence on any Arab living in the occupied territory with few restrictions. Palestinians are subject to military — not civilian — courts, which are far more punitive when it comes to accusations of terrorism and less transparent to outside scrutiny. (In a statement, the I.D.F. said, “The use of administrative detention measures is only carried out in situations where the security authorities have reliable and credible information indicating a real danger posed by the detainee to the region’s security, and in the absence of other alternatives to remove the risk.” It declined to respond to multiple specific queries, in some cases saying “the events are too old to address.”)

According to a senior Israeli defense official, since Oct. 7, some 7,000 settler reservists were called back by the I.D.F., put in uniform, armed and ordered to protect the settlements. They were given specific orders: Do not leave the settlements, do not cover your faces, do not initiate unauthorized roadblocks. But in reality many of them have left the settlements in uniform, wearing masks, setting up roadblocks and harassing Palestinians.

All West Bank settlers are in theory subject to the same military law that applies to Palestinian residents. But in practice, they are treated according to the civil law of the State of Israel, which formally applies only to territory within the state’s borders. This means that Shin Bet might probe two similar acts of terrorism in the West Bank — one committed by Jewish settlers and one committed by Palestinians — and use wholly different investigative tools.

In this system, even the question of what behavior is being investigated as an act of terror is different for Jews and Arabs. For a Palestinian, the simple admission of identifying with Hamas counts as an act of terrorism that permits Israeli authorities to use severe interrogation methods and long detention. Moreover, most acts of violence by Arabs against Jews are categorized as a “terror” attack — giving Shin Bet and other services license to use the harshest methods at their disposal.

The job of investigating Jewish terrorism falls to a division of Shin Bet called the Department for Counterintelligence and Prevention of Subversion in the Jewish Sector, known more commonly as the Jewish Department. It is dwarfed both in size and prestige by Shin Bet’s Arab Department, the division charged mostly with combating Palestinian terrorism. And in the event, most incidents of settler violence — torching vehicles, cutting down olive groves — fall under the jurisdiction of the police, who tend to ignore them. When the Jewish Department investigates more serious terrorist threats, it is often stymied from the outset, and even its successes have sometimes been undermined by judges and politicians sympathetic to the settler cause. This system, with its gaps and obstructions, allowed the founders of groups advocating extreme violence during the 1970s and 1980s to act without consequences, and today it has built a protective cocoon around their ideological descendants.

Some of these people now run Israel. In 2022, just 18 months after losing the prime ministership, Benjamin Netanyahu regained power by forming an alliance with ultraright leaders of both the Religious Zionism Party and the Jewish Power party. It was an act of political desperation on Netanyahu’s part, and it ushered into power some truly radical figures, people — like Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir — who had spent decades pledging to wrest the West Bank and Gaza from Arab hands. Just two months earlier, according to news reports at the time, Netanyahu refused to share a stage with Ben-Gvir, who had been convicted multiple times for supporting terrorist organizations and, in front of television cameras in 1995, vaguely threatened the life of Rabin, who was murdered weeks later by an Israeli student named Yigal Amir [who has never expressed regret.]

Now Ben-Gvir was Israel’s national security minister and Smotrich was Israel’s finance minister, charged additionally with overseeing much of the Israeli government’s activities in the West Bank. In December 2022, a day before the new government was sworn in, Netanyahu issued a list of goals and priorities for his new cabinet, including a clear statement that the nationalistic ideology of his new allies was now the government’s guiding star. “The Jewish people,” it said, “have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the land of Israel.”

Two months after that, two Israeli settlers were murdered in an attack by Hamas gunmen near Huwara, a village in the West Bank. The widespread calls for revenge, common after Palestinian terror attacks, were now coming from within Netanyahu’s new government. Smotrich declared that “the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out.” And, he added, “I think the State of Israel needs to do it.”

Bezalel Smotrich in handcuffs sitting on a bench.

In 2005, Israeli authorities arrested Bezalel Smotrich after hearing of a plot to slow the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Smotrich was later released without charges. One Shin Bet officer who questioned him said he remained “silent as a fish” throughout.Credit…Moti Kimchi

With its overwhelming victory in the Arab-​Israeli War of 1967, Israel more than doubled the amount of land it controlled, seizing new territory in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Now it faced a choice: Would the new land become part of Israel or be bargained away as part of a future Palestinian state? To a cadre of young Israelis imbued with messianic zeal, the answer was obvious. The acquisition of the territories animated a religious political movement — Gush Emunim, or “Bloc of the Faithful” — that was determined to settle the newly conquered lands.

Gush Emunim followers believed that the coming of the messiah would be hastened if, rather than studying holy books from morning to night, Jews settled the newly occupied territories. This was the land of “Greater Israel,” they believed, and there was a pioneer spirit among the early settlers. They saw themselves as direct descendants of the earliest Zionists, who built farms and kibbutzim near Palestinian villages during the first part of the 20th century, when the land was under British control. But while the Zionism of the earlier period was largely secular and socialist, the new settlers believed they were advancing God’s agenda.

The legality of that agenda was an open question. The Geneva Conventions, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade occupying powers to deport or transfer “parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” But the status of the territory was, in the view of many within and outside the Israeli government, more complex. The settlers sought to create what some of them called “facts on the ground.” This put them into conflict with both the Palestinians and, at least putatively, the Israeli authorities responsible for preventing the spread of illegal settlements.

whether or not the government would prove flexible on these matters became clear in April 1975 at Ein Yabrud, an abandoned Jordanian military base near Ofra, in the West Bank. A group of workers had been making the short commute from Israel most days for months to work on rebuilding the base, and one evening they decided to stay. They were aiming to establish a Jewish foothold in Judea and Samaria, the Israeli designation for the territories that make up the West Bank, and they had found a back door that required only the slightest push. Their leader met that same night with Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defense minister, who told the I.D.F. to stand down. Peres would treat the nascent settlement not as a community but as a “work camp” — and the I.D.F. would do nothing to hinder their work.
A black-and-white photograph of Ofra with Israeli flag hanging from clothes pins on lines.
A clothesline in Ofra in 1979.Credit…Micha Bar-Am/Magnum Photos

Peres’s maneuver was partly a sign of the weakness of Israel’s ruling Labor party, which had dominated Israeli politics since the country’s founding. The residual trauma of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 — when Israel was caught completely by surprise by Egyptian and Syrian forces before eventually beating back the invading armies — had shaken citizens’ belief in their leaders, and movements like Gush Emunim, directly challenging the authority of the Israeli state, had gained momentum amid Labor’s decline. This, in turn, energized Israel’s political right.

By the late 1970s, the settlers, bolstered in part by growing political support, were expanding in number. Carmi Gillon, who joined Shin Bet in 1972 and rose by the mid-1990s to become its director, recalls the evolving internal debates. Whose responsibility was it to deal with settlers? Should Israel’s vaunted domestic security service enforce the law in the face of clearly illegal acts of settlement? “When we realized that Gush Emunim had the backing of so many politicians, we knew we shouldn’t touch them,” he said in his first interview for this article in 2016.

One leader of the ultraright movement would prove hard to ignore, however. Meir Kahane, an ultraright rabbi from Flatbush, Brooklyn, had founded the militant Jewish Defense League in 1968 in New York. He made no secret of his belief that violence was sometimes necessary to fulfill his dream of Greater Israel, and he even spoke of plans to buy .22 caliber rifles for Jews to defend themselves. “Our campaign motto will be, ‘Every Jew a .22,’” he declared. In 1971, he received a suspended sentence on bomb-making charges, and at the age of 39 he moved to Israel to start a new life. From a hotel on Zion Square in Jerusalem, he started a school and a political party, what would become Kach, and drew followers with his fiery rhetoric.

A black-and-white photograph of Meir Kahane on a phone with a “Jewish Defense League in Israel” sign behind him.
Meir Kahane, the militant rabbi from Brooklyn, in 1984, just after his election to the Knesset.Credit…Benami Neumann/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Kahane said he wanted to rewrite the stereotype of Jews as victims, and he argued, in often vivid terms, that Zionism and democracy are in fundamental tension. “Zionism came into being to create a Jewish state,” Kahane said in an interview with The Times in 1985, five years before he was assassinated by a gunman in New York. “Zionism declares that there is going to be a Jewish state with a majority of Jews, come what may. Democracy says, ‘No, if the Arabs are the majority then they have the right to decide their own fate.’ So Zionism and democracy are at odds. I say clearly that I stand with Zionism.”

In 1977, the Likud party led a coalition that, for the first time in Israeli history, secured a right-wing majority in the country’s Parliament, the Knesset. The party was headed by Menachem Begin, a veteran of the Irgun, a paramilitary organization that carried out attacks against Arabs and British authorities in Mandatory Palestine, the British colonial entity that preceded the creation of Israel. Likud — Hebrew for “the alliance” — was itself an amalgam of several political parties. Kach itself was still on the outside and would always remain so. But its radical ideas and ambitions were moving closer to the mainstream.

Likud’s victory came 10 years after the war that brought Israel vast amounts of new land, but the issue of what to do with the occupied territories had yet to be resolved. As the new prime minister, Begin knew that addressing that question would mean addressing the settlements. Could there be a legal basis for taking the land? Something that would allow the settlements to expand with the full support of the state?

It was Plia Albeck, then a largely unknown bureaucrat in the Israeli Justice Ministry, who found Begin’s answer. Searching through the regulations of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine in the years preceding the British Mandate, she lit upon the Ottoman Land Code of 1858, a major effort at land reform. Among other provisions, the law enabled the sultan to seize any land that had not been cultivated by its owners for a number of years and that was not “within shouting distance” of the last house in the village. It did little to address the provisions of the Geneva Convention, but it was, for her department, precedent enough. Soon Albeck was riding in an army helicopter, mapping the West Bank and identifying plots of land that might meet the criteria of the Ottoman law. The Israeli state had replaced the sultan, but the effect was the same. Albeck’s creative legal interpretation led to the creation of more than 100 new Jewish settlements, which she referred to as “my children.”

A black-and-white photograph of Plia Albeck reading.
Plia Albeck in 1987. Working from the Israeli Justice Ministry, she used the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 as a precedent to establish more than 100 new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Credit…HaOlam HaZeh

At the same time, Begin was quietly brokering a peace deal with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in the United States at Camp David. The pact they eventually negotiated gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt and promised greater autonomy to Palestinians in the occupied territories in return for normalized relations with Israel. It would eventually win the two leaders a joint Nobel Peace Prize. But Gush Emunim and other right-wing groups saw the accords as a shocking reversal. From this well of anger sprang a new campaign of intimidation. Rabbi Moshe Levinger, one of the leaders of Gush Emunim and the founder of the settlement in the heart of Hebron, declared the movement’s purposes on Israeli television. The Arabs, he said, “must not be allowed to raise their heads.”

Leading this effort would be a militarized offshoot of Gush Emunim called the Jewish Underground. The first taste of what was to come arrived on June 2, 1980. Car bombs exploded as part of a complex assassination plot against prominent Palestinian political figures in the West Bank. The attack blew the legs off Bassam Shaka, the mayor of Nablus; Karim Khalaf, the mayor of Ramallah, was forced to have his foot amputated. Kahane, who in the days before the attack said at a news conference that the Israeli government should form a “Jewish terrorist group” that would “throw bombs and grenades to kill Arabs,” applauded the attacks, as did Rabbi Haim Druckman, a leader of Gush Emunim then serving in the Knesset, and many others within and outside the movement. Brig. Gen. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, then the top I.D.F. commander in the West Bank, noting the injuries suffered by the Palestinian mayors under his watch, said simply, “It’s a shame they didn’t hit them a bit higher.” An investigation began, but it would be years before it achieved any results. Ben-Eliezer went on to become a leader of the Labor party and defense minister.

A black-and-white photograph of Bassam Shaka in a hospital bed being attended to by medical staff. His legs are amputated.
Bassam Shaka, the mayor of Nablus, in the hospital after a bomb attack by Jewish terrorists in 1980 blew off both of his legs.Credit…David Rubinger, via Getty Images

The threat that the unchecked attacks posed to the institutions and guardrails of Jewish democracy wasn’t lost on some members of the Israeli elite. As the violence spread, a group of professors at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem sent a letter to Yitzhak Zamir, Israel’s attorney general. They were concerned, they wrote, that illegal “private policing activity” against the Palestinians living in the occupied territories presented a “threat to the rule of law in the country.” The professors saw possible collusion between the settlers and the authorities. “There is a suspicion that similar crimes are not being handled in the same manner and some criminals are receiving preferential treatment over others,” the signatories to the letter said. “This suspicion requires fundamental examination.”

The letter shook Zamir, who knew some of the professors well. He was also well aware that evidence of selective law enforcement — one law for the Palestinians and another for the settlers — would rebut the Israeli government’s claim that the law was enforced equally and could become both a domestic scandal and an international one. Zamir asked Judith Karp, then Israel’s deputy attorney general for special duties, to lead a committee looking into the issue. Karp was responsible for handling the most delicate issues facing the Justice Ministry, but this would require even greater discretion than usual.

As her team investigated, Karp says, “it very quickly became clear to me that what was described in the letter was nothing compared to the actual reality on the ground.” She and her investigative committee found case after case of trespassing, extortion, assault and murder, even as the military authorities and the police did nothing or performed notional investigations that went nowhere. “The police and the I.D.F. in both action and inaction were really cooperating with the settler vandals,” Karp says. “They operated as if they had no interest in investigating when there were complaints, and generally did everything they could to deter the Palestinians from even submitting them.”

In May 1982, Karp and her committee submitted a 33-page report, determining that dozens of offenses were investigated insufficiently. The committee also noted that, in their research, the police had provided them with information that was incomplete, contradictory and in part false. They concluded that nearly half the investigations opened against settlers were closed without the police conducting even a rudimentary investigation. In the few cases in which they did investigate, the committee found “profound flaws.” In some cases, the police witnessed the crimes and did nothing. In others, soldiers were willing to testify against the settlers, but their testimonies and other evidence were buried.

A portrait of Judith Karp.
Judith Karp led a 1982 internal government investigation that found Israeli authorities unwilling or unable to confront settler crimes. “We were very naïve,” she now recalls. Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

It soon became clear to Karp that the government was going to bury the report. “We were very naïve,” she now recalls. Zamir had been assured, she says, that the cabinet would discuss the grave findings and had in fact demanded total confidentiality. The minister of the interior at the time, Yosef Burg, invited Karp to his home for what she recalls him describing as “a personal conversation.” Burg, a leader of the pro-settler National Religious Party, had by then served as a government minister in one office or another for more than 30 years. Karp assumed he wanted to learn more about her work, which could in theory have important repercussions for the religious right. “But, to my astonishment,” she says, “he simply began to scold me in harsh language about what we were doing. I understood that he wanted us to drop it.”

Karp announced she was quitting the investigative committee. “The situation we discovered was one of complete helplessness,” she says. When the existence of the report (but not its contents) leaked to the public, Burg denied having ever seen such an investigation. When the full contents of the report were finally made public in 1984, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry said only that the committee had been dissolved and that the ministry was no longer monitoring the problem.

On April 11, 1982, a uniformed I.D.F. soldier named Alan Harry Goodman shot his way into the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites for Muslims around the world. Carrying an M16 rifle, standard issue in the Israeli Army, he killed two Arabs and wounded many more. When investigators searched Goodman’s apartment, they found fliers for Kach, but a spokesman for the group said that it did not condone the attack. Prime Minister Begin condemned the attack, but he also chastised Islamic leaders calling for a general strike in response, which he saw as an attempt to “exploit the tragedy.”

A black-and-white photograph of a group of people holding up someone prone with their eyes closed.
A riot outside the Dome of the Rock mosque in 1982, after Alan Harry Goodman killed two Arabs and wounded many others. Credit…Bettmann/Getty Images

The next year, masked Jewish Underground terrorists opened fire on students at the Islamic College in Hebron, killing three people and injuring 33 more. Israeli authorities condemned the massacre but were less clear about who would be held to account. Gen. Ori Orr, commander of Israeli forces in the region, said on the radio that all avenues would be pursued. But, he added, “we don’t have any description, and we don’t know who we are looking for.”

The Jewish Department found itself continually behind in its efforts to address the onslaught. In April 1984, it had a major breakthrough: Its agents foiled a Jewish Underground plan to blow up five buses full of Palestinians, and they arrested around two dozen Jewish Underground members who had also played roles in the Islamic College attack and the bombings of the Palestinian mayors in 1980. But only after weeks of interrogating the suspects did Shin Bet learn that the Jewish Underground had been developing a scheme to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque. The planning involved dozens of intelligence-gathering trips to the Temple Mount and an assessment of the exact amount of explosives that would be needed and where to place them. The goal was nothing less than to drag the entire Middle East into a war, which the Jewish Underground saw as a precondition for the coming of the messiah.

Carmi Gillon, who was head of Shin Bet’s Jewish Department at the time, says the fact that Shin Bet hadn’t learned about a plot involving so many people and such ambitious planning earlier was an “egregious intelligence failure.” And it was not the Shin Bet, he notes, who prevented the plot from coming to fruition. It was the Jewish Underground itself. “Fortunately for all of us, they decided to forgo the plan because they felt the Jewish people were not yet ready.”

A couch with a gun on top of a pillow next to a baby carriage.
A home in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Since Oct. 7, some 7,000 settler reservists were called back by the I.D.F., put in uniform, armed and ordered to protect the settlements. Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

“You have to understand why all this is important now,” Ami Ayalon said, leaning in for emphasis. The sun shining into the backyard of the former Shin Bet director was gleaming off his bald scalp, illuminating a face that looked as if it were sculpted by a dull kitchen knife. “We are not discussing Jewish terrorism. We are discussing the failure of Israel.”

Ayalon was protective of his former service, insisting that Shin Bet, despite some failures, usually has the intelligence and resources to deter and prosecute right-wing terrorism in Israel. And, he said, they usually have the will. “The question is why they are not doing anything about it,” he said. “And the answer is very simple. They cannot confront our courts. And the legal community finds it almost impossible to face the political community, which is supported by the street. So everything starts with the street.”

By the early 1980s, the settler movement had begun to gain some traction within the Knesset, but it remained far from the mainstream. When Kahane himself was elected to the Knesset in 1984, the members of the other parties, including Likud, would turn and leave the room when he stood up to deliver speeches. One issue was that the continual expansion of the settlements was becoming an irritant in U.S.-Israel relations. During a 1982 trip by Begin to Washington, the prime minister had a closed-door meeting with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to discuss Israel’s invasion of Lebanon that year, an effort to force out the P.L.O. that had been heavy with civilian casualties. According to The Times’s coverage of the session, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, then in his second term, had an angry exchange with Begin about the West Bank, telling him that Israel was losing support in this country because of the settlements policy.

But Israeli officials came to understand that the Americans were generally content to vent their anger about the issue without taking more forceful action — like restricting military aid to Israel, which was then, as now, central to the country’s security arrangements. After the Jewish Underground plotters of the bombings targeting the West Bank mayors and other attacks were finally brought to trial in 1984, they were found guilty and given sentences ranging from a few months to life in prison. The plotters showed little remorse, though, and a public campaign swelled to have them pardoned. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir also made the case for pardoning them, saying they were “excellent, good people who have erred in their path and actions.” Clemency, Shamir suggested, would prevent a recurrence of Jewish terrorism.

In the end, President Chaim Herzog, against the recommendations of Shin Bet and the Justice Ministry, signed an extraordinary series of pardons and commutations for the plotters. They were released and greeted as heroes by the settler community, and some rose to prominent positions in government and the Israeli media. One of them, Uzi Sharbav, now a leader in the settlement movement, was a speaker at a recent conference promoting the return of settlers to Gaza.

In fact, nearly all the Jews involved in terror attacks against Arabs over the past decades have received substantial reductions in prison time. Gillon, the head of the Jewish Department when some of these people were arrested, recalls the “profound sense of injustice” that he felt when they were released. But even more important, he says, was “the question of what message the pardons convey to the public and to anyone who ever thinks about carrying out acts of terror against Arabs.”

In 1987, a series of conflicts in Gaza led to a sustained Palestinian uprising throughout the occupied territories and Israel. The First Intifada, as it became known, was driven by anger over the occupation, which was then entering its third decade. It would simmer for the next six years, as Palestinians attacked Israelis with stones and Molotov cocktails and launched a series of strikes and boycotts. Israel deployed thousands of soldiers to quell the uprising.

In the occupied territories, reprisal attacks between settlers and Palestinians were an increasing problem. The Gush Emunim movement had spread and fractured into different groups, making it difficult for Shin Bet to embed enough informants with the settlers. But the service had one key informant — a man given the code name Shaul. He was a trusted figure among the settlers and rose to become a close assistant to Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the Gush Emunim leader who founded the settlement in Hebron.

Levinger had been questioned many times under suspicion of having a role in multiple violent attacks, but Shaul told Shin Bet operatives that they were seeing only a fraction of the whole picture. He told them about raids past and planned; about the settlers tearing through Arab villages, vandalizing homes, burning dozens of cars. The operatives ordered him to participate in these raids to strengthen his cover. One newspaper photographer in Hebron in 1985 captured Shaul smashing the wall of an Arab marketplace with a sledgehammer. As was standard policy, Shin Bet had ordered him to participate in any activity that didn’t involve harm to human life, but figuring out which of the activities wouldn’t cross that line became increasingly difficult. “The majority of the activists were lunatics, riffraff, and it was very difficult to be sure they wouldn’t hurt people and would harm only property,” Shaul said. (Shaul, whose true identity remains secret, provided these quotes in a 2015 interview with Bergman for the Israeli Hebrew-language paper Yedioth Ahronoth. Some of his account is published here for the first time.)

In September 1988, Rabbi Levinger, Shaul’s patron, was driving through Hebron when, he later said in court, Palestinians began throwing stones at his car and surrounding him. Levinger flashed a pistol and began firing wildly at nearby shops. Investigators said he killed a 42-year-old shopkeeper, Khayed Salah, who had been closing the steel shutter of his shoe store, and injured a second man. Levinger claimed self-defense, but he was hardly remorseful. “I know that I am innocent,” he said at the trial, “and that I didn’t have the honor of killing the Arab.”

Prosecutors cut a deal with Levinger. He was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, sentenced to five months in prison and released after only three.

A black-and-white photograph of Rabbi Moshe Levinger being held aloft by a large group.
Rabbi Moshe Levinger (left) with followers in 1975. A leader of Gush Emunim, he declared the movement’s purposes on Israeli television. The Arabs, he said, “must not be allowed to raise their heads.” Credit…Moshe Milner/GPO, via Getty Images
Shin Bet faced the classic intelligence agency’s dilemma: how and when to let its informants participate in the very violent acts the service was supposed to be stopping. There was some logic in Shin Bet’s approach with Shaul, but it certainly didn’t help deter acts of terror in the West Bank, especially with little police presence in the occupied territories and a powerful interest group ensuring that whoever was charged for the violence was released with a light sentence.

Over his many years as a Shin Bet mole, Shaul said, he saw numerous intelligence and operational failures by the agency. One of the worst, he said, was the December 1993 murder of three Palestinians in an act of vengeance after the murder of a settler leader and his son. Driving home from a day of work in Israel, the three Palestinians, who had no connection to the deaths of the settlers, were pulled from their car and killed near the West Bank town Tarqumiyah.

Shaul recalled how one settler activist proudly told him that he and two friends committed the murders. He contacted his Shin Bet handlers to tell them what he had heard. “And suddenly I saw they were losing interest,” Shaul said. It was only later that he learned why: Two of the shooters were Shin Bet informants. The service didn’t want to blow their cover, or worse, to suffer the scandal that two of its operatives were involved in a murder and a cover-up.

In a statement, Shin Bet said that Shaul’s version of events is “rife with incorrect details” but refused to specify which details were incorrect. Neither the state prosecutor nor the attorney general responded to requests for comment, which included Shaul’s full version of events and additional evidence gathered over the years.

Shaul said he also gave numerous reports to his handlers about the activities of yet another Brooklyn-born follower of Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League: Dr. Baruch Goldstein. He earned his medical degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and in 1983 immigrated to Israel, where he worked first as a physician in the I.D.F., then as an emergency doctor at Kiryat Arba, a settlement near Hebron.

In the years that passed, he gained the attention of Shin Bet with his eliminationist views, calling Arabs “latter-day Nazis” and making a point to visit the Jewish terrorist Ami Popper in prison, where he was serving a sentence for the 1990 murder of seven Palestinians in the Tel Aviv suburb Rishon LeZion. Shaul said he regarded Goldstein at the time as a “charismatic and highly dangerous figure” and repeatedly urged the Shin Bet to monitor him. “They told me it was none of my business,” he said.

On Feb. 24, 1994, Goldstein abruptly fired his personal driver. According to Shaul, Goldstein told the driver that he knew he was a Shin Bet informer. Terrified at having been found out, the driver fled the West Bank immediately. Now Goldstein was moving unobserved.

That evening marked the beginning of Purim, the festive commemoration of the victory of the Jews over Haman the Agagite, a court official in the Persian Empire and the nemesis of the Jews in the Old Testament’s Book of Esther. Right-wing Israelis have often drawn parallels between Haman and Arabs — enemies who seek the annihilation of Jews. Goldstein woke early the next day and put on his I.D.F. uniform, and at 5:20 a.m. he entered the Cave of the Patriarchs, an ancient complex in Hebron that serves as a place of worship for both Jews and Muslims. Goldstein carried with him his I.D.F.-issued Galil rifle. It was also the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and on that morning hundreds of Muslims crowded the hall in prayer. Goldstein faced the worshipers and began shooting, firing 108 rounds before he was dragged down and beaten to death. The massacre killed 29 Muslim worshipers and injured more than 100.

Baruch Goldstein, a doctor from Brooklyn who moved to Israel in 1983. He opened fire in a mosque in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994, killing 29 Muslim worshipers before he was dragged down and beaten to death. His gravesite is now a place of pilgrimage for ultraright settlers. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The killings shocked Israel, and the government responded with a crackdown on extremism. Kach and Kahane Chai, the two political organizations most closely affiliated with the Kahanist movement, were outlawed and labeled terrorist groups, as was any other party that called for “the establishment of a theocracy in the biblical Land of Israel and the violent expulsion of Arabs from that land.” Rabin, in an address to the Knesset, spoke directly to the followers of Goldstein and Kahane, who he said were the product of a malicious foreign influence on Israel. “You are not part of the community of Israel,” he said. “You are not partners in the Zionist enterprise. You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out. You placed yourself outside the wall of Jewish law.”

Following the massacre, a state commission of inquiry was appointed, headed by Judge Meir Shamgar, the president of the Supreme Court. The commission’s report, made public in June 1994, strongly criticized the security arrangements at the Cave of the Patriarchs and examined law-enforcement practices regarding settlers and the extreme right in general. A secret appendix to the report, containing material deemed too sensitive for public consumption, included a December 1992 letter from the Israeli commissioner of police, essentially admitting that the police could not enforce the law. “The situation in the districts is extremely bleak,” he wrote, using the administrative nomenclature for the occupied territories. “The ability of the police to function is far from the required minimum. This is as a result of the lack of essential resources.”

In its conclusions, the commission, tracing the lines of the previous decade’s Karp report, confirmed claims that human rights organizations had made for years but that had been ignored by the Israeli establishment. The commission found that Israeli law enforcement was “ineffective in handling complaints,” that it delayed the filing of indictments and that restraining orders against “chronic” criminals among the “hard core” of the settlers were rarely issued.

The I.D.F. refused to allow Goldstein to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in Hebron. He was buried instead in the Kiryat Arba settlement, in a park named for Meir Kahane, and his gravesite has become an enduring place of pilgrimage for Jews who wanted to celebrate, as his epitaph reads, the “saint” who died for Israel with “clean hands and a pure heart.”

Settlers studying near the “Seventh Step.”
Two men studying next to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Behind them, Israeli border police trainees on an educational trip entered the cave. Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

One ultranationalist settler who went regularly to Goldstein’s grave was a teenage radical named Itamar Ben-Gvir, who would sometimes gather other followers there on Purim to celebrate the slain killer. Purim revelers often dress in costume, and on one such occasion, caught on video, Ben-Gvir even wore a Goldstein costume, complete with a fake beard and a stethoscope. By then, Ben-Gvir had already come to the attention of the Jewish Department, and investigators interrogated him several times. The military declined to enlist him into the service expected of most Israeli citizens.

After the massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs, a new generation of Kahanists directed their anger squarely at Rabin for his signing of the Oslo agreement and for depriving them, in their view, of their birthright. “From my standpoint, Goldstein’s action was a wake-up call,” says Hezi Kalo, a longtime senior Shin Bet official who oversaw the division that included the Jewish Department at that time. “I realized that this was going to be a very big story, that the diplomatic moves by the Rabin government would simply not pass by without the shedding of blood.”

The government of Israel was finally paying attention to the threat, and parts of the government acted to deal with it. Shin Bet increased the size of the Jewish Department, and it began to issue a new kind of warning: Jewish terrorists no longer threatened only Arabs. They threatened Jews.

The warnings noted that rabbis in West Bank settlements, along with some politicians on the right, were now openly advocating violence against Israeli public officials, especially Rabin. Extremist rabbis issued rulings of Jewish law against Rabin — imposing a curse of death, a Pulsa Dinura, and providing justification for killing him, a din rodef.

Carmi Gillon by then had moved on from running the Jewish Department and now had the top job at Shin Bet. “Discussing and acknowledging such halakhic laws was tantamount to a license to kill,” he says now, looking back. He was particularly concerned about Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, who were stoking the fury of the right-wing rabbis and settler leaders in their battles with Rabin.

Shin Bet wanted to prosecute rabbis who approved the religiously motivated death sentences against Rabin, but the state attorney’s office refused. “They didn’t give enough importance back then to the link between incitement and legitimacy for terrorism,” says one former prosecutor who worked in the state attorney’s office in the mid-1990s.

Shin Bet issued warning after warning in 1995. “This was no longer a matter of mere incitement, but rather concrete information on the intention to kill top political figures, including Rabin,” Kalo now recalls. In October of that year, Ben-Gvir spoke to Israeli television cameras holding up a Cadillac hood ornament, which he boasted he had broken off the prime minister’s official car during chaotic anti-Oslo demonstrations in front of the Knesset. “We got to his car,” he said, “and we’ll get to him, too.” The following month, Rabin was dead.

Itamar Ben-Gvir being carried by authorities.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, now Israel’s minister of national security, during a protest in 2009. Credit…Moti Milrod/Associated Press

Yigal Amir, the man who shot and killed Rabin in Tel Aviv after a rally in support of the Oslo Accords on Nov. 4, 1995, was not unknown to the Jewish Department. A 25-year-old studying law, computer science and the Torah at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, he had been radicalized by Rabin’s efforts to make peace with Palestinian leaders and had connections to Avishai Raviv, the leader of Eyal, a new far-right group loosely affiliated with the Kach movement. In fact, Raviv was a Shin Bet informant, code-named Champagne. He had heard Amir talking about the justice of the din rodef judgments, but he did not identify him to his handlers as an immediate danger. “No one took Yigal seriously,” he said later in a court proceeding. “It’s common in our circles to talk about attacking public figures.”

Lior Akerman was the first Shin Bet investigator to interrogate Amir at the detention center where he was being held after the assassination. There was of course no question about his guilt. But there was the broader question of conspiracy. Did Amir have accomplices? Did they have further plans? Akerman now recalls asking Amir how he could reconcile his belief in God with his decision to murder the prime minister of Israel. Amir, he says, told him that rabbis had justified harming the prime minister in order to protect Israel.

Amir was smug, Akerman recalls, and he did not respond directly to the question of accomplices. “‘Listen,” he said, according to Akerman, “I succeeded. I was able to do something that many people wanted but no one dared to do. I fired a gun that many Jews held, but I squeezed the trigger because no one else had the courage to do it.”

Yigal Amir in a courtroom.
Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, at a court appearance in 2004. Credit…Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

The Shin Bet investigators demanded to know the identities of the rabbis. Amir was coy at first, but eventually the interrogators drew enough out of him to identify at least two of them. Kalo, the head of the division that oversaw the Jewish Department, went to the attorney general to argue that the rabbis should be detained immediately and prosecuted for incitement to murder. But the attorney general disagreed, saying the rabbis’ encouragement was protected speech and couldn’t be directly linked to the murder. No rabbis were arrested.

Days later, however, the police brought Raviv — the Shin Bet operative known as Champagne — into custody in a Tel Aviv Magistrate Court, on charges that he had conspired to kill Rabin, but he was released shortly after. Raviv’s role as an informant later came to light, and in 1999, he was arrested for his failure to act on previous knowledge of the assassination. He was acquitted on all charges, but he has since become a fixture of extremist conspiracy theories that pose his failure to ring the alarm as evidence that the murder of the prime minister was due not to the violent rhetoric of the settler right, or the death sentences from the rabbis, or the incitement by the leaders of the opposition, but to the all-too-successful efforts of a Shin Bet agent provocateur. A more complicated and insidious conspiracy theory, but no less false, was that it was Shin Bet itself that assassinated Rabin or allowed the assassination to happen.

A black-and-white photograph of Avishai Raviv, who appears to be arguing with someone.
Avishai Raviv (right), the Shin Bet operative known as Champagne, in 1987. Raviv was charged in 1999 with not preventing Rabin’s assassination. He was later acquitted.Credit…Moshe Shai/Flash90

Gillon, the head of the service at the time, resigned, and ongoing inquiries, charges and countercharges would continue for years. Until Oct. 7, 2023, the killing of the prime minister was considered the greatest failure in the history of Shin Bet. Kalo tried to sum up what went wrong with Israeli security. “The only answer my friends and I could give for the failure was complacency,” he wrote in his 2021 memoir. “They simply couldn’t believe that such a thing could happen, definitely not at the hands of another Jew.”

In 2001, as the Second Intifada unleashed a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, Ariel Sharon took office as prime minister. The struggling peace process had come to a complete halt amid the violence, and Sharon’s rise at first appeared to mark another victory for the settlers. But in 2003, in one of the more surprising reversals in Israeli political history, Sharon announced what he called Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza, with a plan to remove settlers — forcibly if necessary — over the next two years.

The motivations were complex and the subject of considerable debate. For Sharon, at least, it appeared to be a tactical move. “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” his senior adviser Dov Weisglass told Haaretz at the time. “And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” But Sharon was also facing considerable pressure from President George W. Bush to do something about the ever-expanding illegal settlements in the West Bank, which were a growing impediment to any regional security deals. In July 2004, he asked Talia Sasson, who had recently retired as the head of the special tasks division in the state attorney’s office, to draw up a legal opinion on the subject of “unauthorized outposts” in the West Bank. His instructions were clear: Investigate which Israeli government agencies and authorities were secretly involved in building the outposts. “Sharon never interfered in my work, and neither was he surprised by the conclusions,” Sasson said in an interview two decades later. “After all, he knew better than anyone what the situation was on the ground, and he was expecting only grave conclusions.”

It was a simple enough question: Just how had it happened that hundreds of outposts had been built in the decade since Yitzhak Rabin ordered a halt in most new settlements? But Sasson’s effort to find an answer was met with delays, avoidance and outright lies. Her final report used careful but pointed language: “Not everyone I turned to agreed to talk with me. One claimed he was too busy to meet, while another came to the meeting but refused to meaningfully engage with most of my questions.”

Sasson found that between January 2000 and June 2003, a division of Israel’s Construction and Housing Ministry issued 77 contracts for the establishment of 33 sites in the West Bank, all of which were illegal. In some cases, the ministry even paid for the paving of roads and the construction of buildings at settlements for which the Defense Ministry had issued demolition orders.

Several government ministries concealed the fact that funds were being diverted to the West Bank, reporting them under budgetary clauses such as “miscellaneous general development.” Just as in the case of the Karp Report two decades earlier, Sasson and her Justice Ministry colleagues discovered that the West Bank was being administered under completely separate laws, and those laws, she says, “appeared to me utterly insane.”

Attorney Talia Sasson at a podium.

Talia Sasson delivering a report on unauthorized Jewish settlements in 2005. Her report found that it “was state and public agencies that broke the law, the rules, the procedures that the state itself had determined.” Credit…Flash90/EPA

Sasson’s report took special note of Avi Maoz, who ran the Construction and Housing Ministry during most of this period. A political activist who early in his career spoke openly of pushing all Arabs out of the West Bank, Maoz helped found a settlement south of Jerusalem during the 1990s and began building a professional alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and would soon go on to his first term as prime minister. Years later, Maoz would be instrumental in ensuring Netanyahu’s political survival.

“The picture that emerges in the eye of the beholder is severe,” Sasson wrote in her report. “Instead of the government of Israel deciding on the establishment of settlements in the territories of Judea and Samaria, its place has been taken, from the mid-1990s and onward, by others.” The settlers, she wrote, were “the moving force,” but they could not have succeeded without the assistance of “various ministers of construction and housing in the relevant periods, some of them with a blind eye, and some of them with support and encouragement.”

This clandestine network was operating, Sasson wrote, “with massive funding from the State of Israel, without appropriate public transparency, without obligatory criteria. The erection of the unauthorized outposts is being done with violation of the proper procedures and general administrative rules, and in particular, flagrant and ongoing violation of the law.” These violations, Sasson warned, were coming from the government: “It was state and public agencies that broke the law, the rules, the procedures that the state itself had determined.” It was a conflict, she argued, that effectively neutered Israel’s internal checks and balances and posed a grave threat to the nation’s integrity. “The law-enforcement agencies are unable to act against government departments that are themselves breaking the law.”

But, in an echo of Judith Karp’s secret report decades earlier, the Sasson Report, made publicly available in March 2005, had almost no impact. Because she had a mandate directly from the prime minister, Sasson could have believed that her investigation might lead to the dismantling of the illegal outposts that had metastasized throughout the Palestinian territories. But even Sharon, with his high office, found himself powerless against the machine now in place to protect and expand the settlements in the West Bank — the very machine he had helped to build.

All of this was against the backdrop of the Gaza pullout. Sharon, who began overseeing the removal of settlements from Gaza in August 2005, was the third Israeli prime minister to threaten the settler dream of a Greater Israel, and the effort drew bitter opposition not only from the settlers but also from a growing part of the political establishment. Netanyahu, who had served his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and who previously voted in favor of a pullout, resigned his position as finance minister in Sharon’s cabinet in protest — and in anticipation of another run for the top job.

A close-up photograph of Avi Maoz.
Avi Maoz helped found a settlement south of Jerusalem during the 1990s and began building a professional alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu. Years later, Maoz would be instrumental in ensuring Netanyahu’s political survival.Credit…Amir Cohen/EPA, via Shutterstock

The settlers themselves took more active measures. In 2005, the Jewish Department of Shin Bet received intelligence about a plot to slow the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza by using 700 liters of gasoline to blow up vehicles on a major highway. Acting on the tip, officers arrested six men in central Israel. One of them was Bezalel Smotrich, the future minister overseeing civilian affairs in the West Bank.

Smotrich, then 25, was detained and questioned for weeks. Yitzhak Ilan, one of the Shin Bet officers present at the interrogation, says he remained “silent as a fish” throughout — “like an experienced criminal.” He was released without charges, Ilan says, in part because Shin Bet knew putting him on trial might expose the service’s agents inside Jewish extremist groups, and in part because they believed Smotrich was likely to receive little punishment in any case. Shin Bet was very comfortable with the courts when we fought Palestinian terrorism and we got the heavy punishments we wanted, he says. With the Jewish terrorists it was exactly the opposite.

When Netanyahu made his triumphant return as prime minister in 2009, he set out to undermine Talia Sasson’s report, which he and his allies saw as an obstacle to accelerating the settlement campaign. He appointed his own investigative committee, led by Judge Edmond Levy of the Supreme Court, who was known to support the settler cause. But the Levy report, completed in 2012, did not undermine the findings in the Sasson Report — in some ways, it reinforced them. Senior Israeli officials, the committee found, were fully aware of what was happening in the territories, and they were simply denying it for the sake of political expediency. The behavior, they wrote, was not befitting of “a country that has proclaimed the rule of law as a goal.” Netanyahu moved on.

Someone in a uniform with a gun planting a tree with a young person in a weathered hat.

Settlers planting trees near an illegal settlement called Mitzpe Yair, in the South Hebron hills, as a way of claiming territory.Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

The ascent of a far-right prime minister did little to prevent the virulent, anti-government strain inside the settler movement from spreading. A new generation of Kahanists was taking an even more radical turn, not only against Israeli politicians who might oppose or insufficiently abet them but against the very notion of a democratic Israeli state. A group calling itself Hilltop Youth advocated for the total destruction of the Zionist state. Meir Ettinger, named for his grandfather Meir Kahane, was one of the Hilltop Youth leaders, and he made his grandfather’s views seem moderate.

Their objective was to tear down Israel’s institutions and to establish “Jewish rule”: anointing a king, building a temple in place of the Jerusalem mosques sacred to Muslims worldwide, imposing a religious regime on all Jews. Ehud Olmert, who served as Israeli prime minister from 2006 to 2009, said in an interview that Hilltop Youth “genuinely, deeply, emotionally believe that this is the right thing to do for Israel. This is a salvation. This is the guarantee for Israel’s future.”

A former member of Hilltop Youth, who has asked to remain anonymous because she fears speaking out could endanger her, recalls how she and her friends used an illegal outpost on a hilltop in the West Bank as a base to lob stones at Palestinian cars. “The Palestinians would call the police, and we would know that we have at least 30 minutes before they arrive, if they arrive. And if they do arrive, they won’t arrest anyone. We did this tens of times.” The West Bank police, she says, couldn’t have been less interested in investigating the violence. “When I was young, I thought that I was outsmarting the police because I was clever. Later, I found out that they are either not trying or very stupid.”

The former Hilltop Youth member says she began pulling away from the group as their tactics became more extreme and once Ettinger began speaking openly about murdering Palestinians. She offered to become a police informant, and during a meeting with police intelligence officers in 2015, she described the group’s plans to commit murder — and to harm any Jews that stood in their way. By her account, she told the police about efforts to scout the homes of Palestinians before settling on a target. The police could have begun an investigation, she says, but they weren’t even curious enough to ask her the names of the people plotting the attack.

In 2013, Ettinger and other members of Hilltop Youth formed a secret cell calling itself the Revolt, designed to instigate an insurrection against a government that “prevents us from building the temple, which blocks our way to true and complete redemption.”

During a search of one of the group’s safe houses, Shin Bet investigators discovered the Revolt’s founding documents. “The State of Israel has no right to exist, and therefore we are not bound by the rules of the game,” one declared. The documents called for an end to the State of Israel and made it clear that in the new state that would rise in its place, there would be absolutely no room for non-Jews and for Arabs in particular: “If those non-Jews don’t leave, it will be permissible to kill them, without distinguishing between women, men and children.”

This wasn’t just idle talk. Ettinger and his comrades organized a plan that included timetables and steps to be taken at each stage. One member even composed a training manual with instructions on how to form terror cells and burn down houses. “In order to prevent the residents from escaping,” the manual advised, “you can leave burning tires in the entrance to the house.”

The Revolt carried out an early attack in February 2014, firebombing an uninhabited home in a small Arab village in the West Bank called Silwad, and followed with more arson attacks, the uprooting of olive groves and the destruction of Palestinian granaries. Members of the group torched mosques, monasteries and churches, including the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. A police officer spotted Ettinger himself attacking a herd of sheep belonging to an Arab shepherd. He stoned a sheep and then slaughtered it in front of the shepherd, the officer later testified. “It was shocking,” he said. “There was a sort of insanity in it.”

Meir Ettinger being directed by a person in a uniform with an earpiece.

Meir Ettinger, grandson of Meir Kahane and a Hilltop Youth leader, after his arrest in 2015. He was released from administrative detention, with some restrictions, after 10 months.Credit…Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

Shin Bet defined the Revolt as an organization that aimed “to undermine the stability of the State of Israel through terror and violence, including bodily harm and bloodshed,” according to an internal Shin Bet memo, and sought to place several of its members, including Ettinger, under administrative detention — a measure applied frequently against Arabs.

The state attorney, however, did not approve the request. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 323 incidents of violence by settlers against Palestinians in 2014; Palestinians were injured in 107 of these incidents. By the following year, the Revolt escalated the violence by openly advocating the murder of Arabs.

The Shin Bet and the police identified one of the prominent members of the Revolt, Amiram Ben-Uliel, making him a target of surveillance. But the service failed to prevent the wave of violence that he unleashed. On the night of July 31, 2015, Ben-Uliel set out on a killing spree in a central West Bank village called Duma. Ben-Uliel prepared a bag with two bottles of incendiary liquid, rags, a lighter, a box of matches, gloves and black spray paint. According to the indictment against him, Ben-Uliel sought a home with clear signs of life to ensure that the house he torched was not abandoned. He eventually found the home of Reham and Sa’ad Dawabsheh, a young mother and father. He opened a window and threw a Molotov cocktail into the home. He fled, and in the blaze that followed, the parents suffered injuries that eventually killed them. Their older son, Ahmad, survived the attack, but their 18-month-old toddler, Ali, was burned to death.

It was always clear, says Akerman, the former Shin Bet official, “that those wild groups would move from bullying Arabs to damaging property and trees and eventually would murder people.” He is still furious about how the service has handled Jewish terrorism. “Shin Bet knows how to deal with such groups, using emergency orders, administrative detention and special methods in interrogation until they break,” he says. But although it was perfectly willing to apply those methods to investigating Arab terrorism, the service was more restrained when it came to Jews. “It allowed them to incite, and then they moved on to the next stage and began to torch mosques and churches. Still undeterred, they entered Duma and burned a family.”

Ahmad Dawabsheh looking out a window to a village at dusk. He has a scar on the back of his head.
Ahmad Dawabsheh, the sole survivor of the arson attack by Amiram Ben-Uliel that killed his parents and younger brother, at the house in Duma where the murders occurred, which has been left untouched.Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times
Shin Bet at first claimed to have difficulty locating the killers, even though they were all supposed to be under constant surveillance. When Ben-Uliel and other perpetrators were finally arrested, right-wing politicians gave fiery speeches against Shin Bet and met with the families of the perpetrators to show their support. Ben-Uliel was sentenced to life in prison, and Ettinger was finally put in administrative detention, but a fracture was spreading. In December 2015, Hilltop Youth members circulated a video clip showing members of the Revolt ecstatically dancing with rifles and pistols, belting out songs of hatred for Arabs, with one of them stabbing and burning a photograph of the murdered toddler, Ali Dawabsheh. Netanyahu, for his part, denounced the video, which, he said, exposed “the real face of a group that poses danger to Israeli society and security.”
 Ben-Uliel at a sentencing hearing.
Amiram Ben-Uliel speaking to his wife from behind a glass pane during a hearing in Israel in 2020. He is currently serving multiple life sentences.Credit…Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The expansion of the settlements had long been an irritant in Israel’s relationship with the United States, with American officials spending years dutifully warning Netanyahu both in public and in private meetings about his support for the enterprise. But the election of Donald Trump in 2016 ended all that. His new administration’s Israel policy was led mostly by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who had a long personal relationship with Netanyahu, a friend of his father’s who had stayed at their family home in New Jersey. Trump, in a broader regional agenda that lined up perfectly with Netanyahu’s own plans, also hoped to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran that Barack Obama had negotiated and broker diplomatic pacts between Israel and Arab nations that left the matter of a Palestinian state unresolved and off the table.

If there were any questions about the new administration’s position on settlements, they were answered once Trump picked his ambassador to Israel. His choice, David Friedman, was a bankruptcy lawyer who for years had helped run an American nonprofit that raised millions of dollars for Beit El, one of the early Gush Emunim settlements in the West Bank and the place where Bezalel Smotrich was raised and educated. The organization, which was also supported by the Trump family, had helped fund schools and other institutions inside Beit El. On the heels of the Trump transition, Friedman referred to Israel’s “alleged occupation” of Palestinian territories and broke with longstanding U.S. policy by saying “the settlements are part of Israel.”

This didn’t make Friedman a particularly friendly recipient of the warnings regularly delivered by Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, the three-star general who in 2019 arrived at the embassy in Jerusalem to coordinate security between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. A career Green Beret who had combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq and served as deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, the military task force with authority over U.S. counterterrorism special missions units, Schwartz wasn’t short on Middle East experience.

But he was immediately shocked by the landscape of the West Bank: settlers acting with impunity, a police force that was essentially nonexistent outside the settlements and the Israeli Army fanning the tensions with its own operations. Schwartz recalls how angry he was about what he called the army’s “collective punishment” tactics, including the razing of Palestinian homes, which he viewed as gratuitous and counterproductive. “I said, ‘Guys, this isn’t how professional militaries act.’” As Schwartz saw it, the West Bank was in some ways the American South of the 1960s. But at any moment the situation could become even more volatile, resulting in the next intifada.

Schwartz is diplomatic when recalling his interactions with Friedman, his former boss. He was a “good listener,” Schwartz says, but when he raised concerns about the settlements, Friedman would often deflect by noting “the lack of appreciation by the Palestinian people about what the Americans are doing for them.” Schwartz also discussed his concerns about settler violence directly with Shin Bet and I.D.F. officials, he says, but as far as he could tell, Friedman didn’t follow up with the political leadership. “I never got the sense he went to Netanyahu to discuss it.”

Friedman sees things differently. “I think I had a far broader perspective on acts of violence in Judea and Samaria” than Schwartz, he says now. “And it was clear that the violence coming from Palestinians against Israelis overwhelmingly was more prevalent.” He says he “wasn’t concerned about ‘appreciation’ from the Palestinians; I was concerned by their leadership’s embrace of terror and unwillingness to control violence.” He declined to discuss any conversations he had with Israeli officials.

Weeks after Trump lost the 2020 election, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Israel for a trip that delivered a number of gifts to Netanyahu and the settler cause. He announced new guidelines requiring that goods imported to the United States from parts of the West Bank be labeled “Made in Israel.” And he flew by helicopter to Psagot, a winery in the West Bank, making him the first American secretary of state to visit a settlement. One of the winery’s large shareholders, the Florida-based Falic family, have donated millions to various projects in the settlements.

During his lunchtime visit, Pompeo paused to write a note in the winery’s guest book. “May I not be the last secretary of state to visit this beautiful land,” he wrote.


Benjamin Netanyahu’s determination to become prime minister for an unprecedented sixth term came with a price: an alliance with a movement that he once shunned, but that had been brought into the political mainstream by Israel’s steady drift to the right. Netanyahu, who is now on trial for bribery and other corruption charges, repeatedly failed in his attempts to form a coalition after most of the parties announced that they were no longer willing to join him. He personally involved himself in negotiations to ally Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party and Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism Party, making them kingmakers for anyone trying to form a coalition government. In November 2022, the bet paid off: With the now-critical support of the extreme right, Netanyahu returned to office.

The two men ushered into power by this arrangement were some of the most extreme figures ever to hold such high positions in an Israeli cabinet. Shin Bet had monitored Ben-Gvir in the years after Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, and he was arrested on multiple charges including inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization. He won acquittals or dismissals in some of the cases, but he was also convicted several times and served time in prison. During the Second Intifada, he led protests calling for extreme measures against Arabs and harassed Israeli politicians he believed were insufficiently hawkish.

Then Ben-Gvir made a radical change: He went to law school. He also took a job as an aide to Michael Ben-Ari, a Knesset member from the National Union party, which had picked up many followers of the Kach movement. In 2011, after considerable legal wrangling around his criminal record, he was admitted to the bar. He changed his hairstyle and clothing to appear more mainstream and began working from the inside, once saying he represented the “soldiers and civilians who find themselves in legal entanglements due to the security situation in Israel.” Netanyahu made him minister of national security, with authority over the police.

Smotrich also moved into public life after his 2005 arrest by Shin Bet for plotting road blockages to halt the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. He made Shin Bet’s Jewish Department a frequent target of criticism, complaining that it was wasting time and money investigating crimes carried out by Jews, when the real terrorists were Palestinians. His ultraright allies sometimes referred to the Jewish Department as Hamakhlaka Hayehudit — the Hebrew phrase for the Gestapo unit that executed Hitler’s Final Solution.

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in a special session.
Ben-Gvir (left) and Smotrich attending a special session at the Knesset to swear in a new right-wing government in 2022.Credit…Amir Cohen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 2015, while campaigning for a seat in the Knesset, Smotrich said that “every shekel invested in this department is one less shekel invested in real terrorism and saving lives.” Seven years later, Netanyahu made him both minister of finance and a minister in the Ministry of Defense, in charge of overseeing civilian affairs in the West Bank, and he has steadily pushed to seize authority over the territory from the military. As part of the coalition deal with Netanyahu, Smotrich now has the authority to appoint one of the senior administrative figures in the West Bank, who helps oversee the building of roads and the enforcement of construction laws. The 2022 election also brought Avi Maoz to the Knesset — the former housing-ministry official whom Talia Sasson once marked as a hidden hand of Israeli government support for illegal settlements. Since then, Maoz had joined the far-right Noam party, using it as a platform to advance racist and homophobic policies. And he never forgot, or forgave, Sasson. On “International Anti-Corruption Day” in 2022, Maoz took to the lectern of the Knesset and denounced Sasson’s report of nearly two decades earlier, saying it was written “with a hatred of the settlements and a desire to harm them.” This, he said, was “public corruption of the highest order, for which people like Talia Sasson should be prosecuted.”

Days after assuming his own new position, Ben-Gvir ordered the police to remove Palestinian flags from public spaces in Israel, saying they “incite and encourage terrorism.” Smotrich, for his part, ordered drastic cuts in payments to the Palestinian Authority — a move that led the Shin Bet and the I.D.F. intelligence division to raise concerns that the cuts would interfere with the Palestinian Authority’s own efforts to police and prevent Palestinian terrorism.

Weeks after the new cabinet was sworn in, the Judea and Samaria division of the I.D.F. distributed an instructional video to the soldiers of a ground unit about to be deployed in the West Bank. Titled “Operational Challenge: The Farms,” the video depicts settlers as peaceful farmers living pastoral lives, feeding goats and herding sheep and cows, in dangerous circumstances. The illegal outposts multiplying around the West Bank are “small and isolated places of settlement, each with a handful of residents, a few of them — or none at all — bearing arms, the means of defense meager or nonexistent.”

It is the settlers, according to the video, who are under constant threat of attack, whether it be “penetration of the farm by a terrorist, an attack against a shepherd in the pastures, arson” or “destruction of property” — threats from which the soldiers of the I.D.F. must protect them. The commander of each army company guarding each farm must, the video says, “link up with the person in charge of security and to maintain communications”; soldiers and officers are encouraged to cultivate a close and intimate relationship with the settlers. “The informal,” viewers are told, “is much more important than the formal.”

The video addresses many matters of security, but it never addresses the question of law. When we asked the commander of the division that produced the video, Brig. Gen. Avi Bluth, why the I.D.F. was promoting the military support of settlements that are illegal under Israeli law, he directly asserted that the farms were indeed legal and offered to arrange for us to tour some of them. Later, a spokesman for the army apologized for the general’s remarks, acknowledged that the farms were illegal and announced that the I.D.F. would no longer be promoting the video. This May, Bluth was nonetheless subsequently promoted to head Israel’s Central Command, responsible for all Israeli troops in central Israel and the West Bank.

In August, Bluth will replace Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, who during his final months in charge of the West Bank has seen a near-total breakdown of law enforcement in his area of command. In late October, Fox wrote a letter to his boss, the chief of Israel’s military staff, saying that the surge of Jewish terrorism carried out in revenge for the Oct. 7 attacks “could set the West Bank on fire.” The I.D.F. is the highest security authority in the West Bank, but the military’s top commander put the blame squarely on the police — who ultimately answer to Ben-Gvir. Fox said he had established a special task force to deal with Jewish terrorism, but investigating and arresting the perpetrators is “entirely in the hands of the Israeli police.”

And, he wrote, they aren’t doing their jobs.

When the day came early this January for the Supreme Court to hear the case brought by the people of Khirbet Zanuta, the displaced villagers arrived an hour late. They had received entry permits from the District Coordination Office to attend the hearing but were delayed by security forces before reaching the checkpoint separating Israel from the West Bank. Their lawyer, Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, noting that their struggle to attend their own hearing spoke to the essence of their petition, insisted that the hearing couldn’t proceed without them. The judges agreed to wait.

The villagers finally were led into the courtroom, and Mishirqi-Assad began presenting the case. The proceedings were in Hebrew, so most of the villagers were unable to follow the arguments that described the daily terrors inflicted by settlers and the glaring absence of any law-enforcement efforts to stop them.

Palestinian villagers at the Israeli Supreme Court.
Palestinian villagers at the Israeli Supreme Court in January. They are among the residents of six villages in the West Bank asking the Israeli government to enforce the law there. Credit…Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

The lawyers representing the military and the police denied the claims of abuse and failure to enforce the law. When a judge asked what operational steps would be in place if villagers wanted to return, one of the lawyers for the state said they could already — there was no order preventing them from doing so.

The next to speak was Col. Roi Zweig-Lavi, the Central Command’s Operations Directorate officer. He said that many of these incidents involved false claims. In fact, he said, some of the villagers had probably destroyed their own homes, because of an “internal issue.” Now they were blaming the settlers to escape the consequences of their own actions.

Colonel Zweig-Lavi’s own views about the settlements, and his role in protecting them, were well known. In a 2022 speech, he told a group of yeshiva students in the West Bank that “the army and the settlements are one and the same.”

In early May, the court ordered the state to explain why the police failed to stop the attacks and declared that the villagers have a right to return to their homes. The court also ordered the state to provide details for how they would ensure the safe return of the villagers. It is now the state’s turn to decide how it will comply. Or if it will comply.

By the time the Supreme Court issued its rulings, the United States had finally taken action to directly pressure the Netanyahu government about the violent settlers. On Feb. 1, the White House issued an executive order imposing sanctions on four settlers for “engaging in terrorist activity,” among other things, in the West Bank. One of the four was Yinon Levi, the owner of Meitarim Farm near Hebron and the man American and Israeli officials believe orchestrated the campaign of violence and intimidation against the villagers of Khirbet Zanuta. The British government issued its own sanctions shortly after, saying in a statement that Israel’s government had created “an environment of near-total impunity for settler extremists in the West Bank.”

Yinon Levi sitting.
Yinon Levi in a meeting at the Knesset in February, shortly after the United States imposed sanctions against him in connection to “escalating violence against civilians in the West Bank.”Credit…Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The White House’s move against individual settlers, a first by an American administration, was met with a combination of anger and ridicule by ministers in Netanyahu’s government. Smotrich called the Biden administration’s allegations against Levi and others “utterly specious” and said he would work with Israeli banks to resist complying with the sanctions. One message that circulated in an open Hilltop Youth WhatsApp channel said that Levi and his family would not be abandoned. “The people of Israel are mobilizing for them,” it said.

American officials bristle when confronted with the question of whether the government’s actions are just token measures taken by an embattled American president hemorrhaging support at home for his Israel policy. They won’t end the violence, they say, but they are a signal to the Netanyahu government about the position of the United States: that the West Bank could boil over, and it could soon be the latest front of an expanding regional Middle East war since Oct. 7.

But war might just be the goal. Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, said he believes that many members of the ultraright in Israel “want war.” They “want intifada,” he says, “because it is the ultimate proof that there is no way of making peace with the Palestinians and there is only one way forward — to destroy them.”

2 replies
  1. Roger Spunner
    Roger Spunner says:

    Friedman is Jewish.[5][6] He attended Hebrew school five days a week until his Bar Mitzvah,[7] then St. Louis Park High School, where he wrote articles for his school’s newspaper.[8] He became enamored with Israel after a visit there in December 1968, and he spent all three of his high school summers living on Kibbutz HaHotrim, near Haifa.[9]

    He has characterized his high school years as “one big celebration of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War.”[9]

  2. Batman273
    Batman273 says:

    I’ve spent years studying the research of Professor Richard Lynn, Professor Kevin MacDonald, Professor J. Philippe Rushton, Emil Kirkegaard, Professor Arthur Jensen, Professor Linda Gottfredson, and currently living genius Dr. Michael Anthony Woodley of Menie. And based on this study, I have an understanding that it does not matter if Russia and China are allies, because they are still far too genetically inferior to the Ashkenazim and thus will lose to them in the current evolutionary wars. The Ashkenazim just killed the President of Iran, and they will soon enslave and/or kill the entire population of Russia and China.

    Palestinians are de facto extinct. The Europeans are de facto extinct, originally the result of an extreme genetic weakness of Ethnic Europeans that caused them to hand over the entire West to the Ashkenazim during the Enlightenment, resulting in the Ashkenazim using their newly acquired power and wealth to work with the genetically defective Europeans to bring forth the extinction of Europeans. And East Asians are self-choosing to evolutionarily fail and go extinct. And all the Browns and Africans have always been a relatively R-Selected primitive people who are no match for the Ashkenazim.

    Currently, the Ashkenazim are Group Selected, while Gentiles are Individually Selected. In other words, the Ashkenazim are K-Selected, while the Gentiles are R-Selected. Every Gentile is about to experience extreme torture by the Ashkenazim. The only choice for us Gentiles is to leave Earth for the possible After-Life where we may be united with a possible G-d. We Gentiles must unite and provide pentobarbital for every Gentile so that we can leave our Earthly bodies and reunite with a possible G-d in the After-Life. Earth belongs to Lucifer and his Ashkenazi soldiers.

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