Israel’s Cabinet has agreed to initiate a crackdown on extremist Jewish groups that would include efforts to prevent supporters of the groups from entering Israel.
“Extremist violence, racist and terrorist organizations are a serious danger to the democratic rule of Israel, the security of the state and peace of the public,” Cabinet Secretary Shmuel Hollander told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. “The government will act to make them illegal.”
The Cabinet move, taken in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, coincided with the first hearings of Israel’s three-member state commission of inquiry on the security lapses that led to the assassination.
In its efforts to combat subversive groups, the ministers agreed at Sunday’s Cabinet session to appoint a special task force to look into the legal ramifications of the proposed crackdown.
The task force will be comprised of representatives from the attorney general’s office, the police, the Israel Defense Force general staff an the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service.
While, Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein elaborated on the plan to prevent supporters of extremist groups from entering Israel.
“People who support illegal organizations or their members cannot come to Israel, not as citizens, not as tourists, not as returning residents and not as immigrants,” he said.
The Law of Return, which grants citizenship to any Jew who wishes to immigrate, includes a clause that allows the Interior Ministry to refuse entry if there is concern that an individual may pose a threat to public safety.
Last week, Interior Minister Ehud Barak barred a Kach activist from New York from entering Israel.
Rubinstein rejected complaints from the main opposition Likud Party that the crackdown on right-wing extremists amounted to witchhunt in the aftermath of Rabin’s killing.
“There is no shred of evidence to that effect,” Rubinstein told Israel Radio. “It is our duty to fight Jewish terrorism.”
Meanwhile, the state commission of inquiry into the assassination heard the first secret testimony from security officials charged with the protection of Rabin and other Israeli leaders.
The three-member panel, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, will convene in mostly closed door sessions three to four times a week.
The commission expected to conclude its work within two months, according to local press reports.
The panel commission will investigate the security lapses that enabled confessed assassin Yigal Amir to get within point-blank shooting range of Rabin at the conclusion of a Nov. 4 rally in Tel Aviv.
It will also address questions surrounding the security service’s intelligence- gathering efforts.
Shin Bet officials have admitted that they failed to follow up on its from people who knew Amir that an assassination was planned.
Amid heavy security, the head of the Shin Bet was among the security officials who appeared before the panel Sunday.
The commission convened amid reports that Avishai Raviv, leader of the extremist militant group Eyal, had been working for the Shin Bet for the past two years.
Raviv was among eight people arrested in a police crackdown on activists suspected of involvement in an alleged right-wing assassination conspiracy.
The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported that Raviv knew Amir “but didn’t know or didn’t report his intentions.”
The allegations were denied by government officials, the Shin Bet and Raviv, who is currently under house arrest at his parents’ home in Holon.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal accused right-wing activists of spreading the rumors in order to discredit the Shin Bet.
In a related development, two suspects arrested in connection with the shooting, Ohad Skornick and Michael Epstein, had their detention extended as police continued investigating their involvement in the alleged assassination plot.