A former intelligence chief believes that the country’s Jewish underground has been growing by worrying proportions, and predicts Israel’s future as “bad or very bad."
Israel’s Jewish Underground is known for having conspired to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque in the 1980s. Located in Jerusalem’s Haram al Sharif, the religious site is considered one of the holiest places by Muslims around the world.
Some members of the Jewish Underground, which was recognised as a terrorist organisation by Israel, were rounded up on various charges, ranging from attacking Palestinian students to bombing Palestinian mayors in the mid 1980s.
The terror group drew support from settler movement and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Contrary to popular belief, it has not ceased to exist.
The new version of the Jewish Underground has widely been held responsible for the killing of Yizhak Rabin, who as Israel's prime minister signed the Oslo Peace Accords with Palestinian leadership in 1995.
Under hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports illegal settlements and the annexation of the West Bank, the violent movement has been apparently nourished again, aiming to change the alleged secular character of the state into a religious one.
“They’re no longer ‘wild weeds’. The Israeli public erred when it called them that,” said Carmi Gillon, the former chief of the Shin Bet, the Israel’s internal intelligence agency, seeing the country’s future in grave danger.
“They’re not weeds. When the Jewish Underground was uncovered [following a series of violent, anti-Palestinian attacks in the 1980s], there were 12,000 settlers in the territories. Now there are 500,000. They flourish on a clearly defined popular, ideological ground,” Gillon told Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
Dominated by ultra Orthodox groups, the Underground want to establish Jewish law as an official ideology of Israel. The group has long been a problem for Israel's political establishment, as it exerts enormous influence over right-wing political parties.
Gillon thinks that Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, and other Israeli politicians have tacitly allowed the Jewish Underground to grow further, viewing that the group serves their own political agenda.
The former intelligence chief has recently written a political fiction book, Vicious Messiah, in which he has plotted new Jewish Underground attacks on sacred Christian and Muslim cites in Palestine.
In the book, he also developed plots where the illegal group will not only target other religious groups but also Jewish groups, including Reformists, who oppose religious law, and members of Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
Despite the fact the book is a fiction, he thinks all of these attacks are quite possible if in any political scenario Israel withdraws from the West Bank as could be the case according to the deeply biased ‘deal of the century’, the recent American plan by President Donald Trump, heavily favouring the Zionist state.
The Jewish Underground and religious zealots reject any withdrawal, considering all of Palestine as part of their alleged promised land given by God.
“That is the moment that will be a trigger for right-wing messianic ideology to act, to create chaos through attacks by a new underground,” Gillon says uncomfortably.
According to him, the radical religious path has already been facilitated by consecutive Israeli governments.
“From the depths of my memory, I recall newspaper headlines and pictures – from [then-Defense Minister] Shimon Peres’ beneficent gaze at the settlers in Sebastia and [settler leader] Rabbi Levinger, to the total obsequiousness every Israeli government has displayed toward rabbis of the religious Zionist movement and to ultra-Orthodox lawmakers,” Gillon remembered.
Moshe Levinger, was one of the principal founders of Gush Emunim, a pro-settler political movement, which was instrumental in forming the Jewish Underground in early 1980s.
Israel’s future: ‘Bad or very bad’
“Because all politicians have been solely preoccupied with survival for far too long – since [former left-wing prime minister] Ehud Barak, basically, and maybe with the exception of [the former right-wing prime minister] Ariel Sharon, who had some political daring – two scenarios are likely,” Gillon said.
“One is bad, the other very bad,” Gilon estimated Israel’s political prospects.
Gillon, who was leading Shin Bet when religious fanatic Yigal Amir killed Rabin in November 1995, is concerned over the fact that the religious zealots have not been investigated by Israeli justice ministry over their extreme activities.
“No attorney general has allowed an investigation of the radical rabbis and to try them over the very imminent danger reflected in their declarations and the circle of their admiring students. We’ve also erred regarding this,” Gillon viewed.
Many think that radical rabbis were behind the Jewish Underground attacks in the 1980s and 1990s respectively.
Efraim Halevy, another former top security official, who led Mossad, the country’s foreign intelligence services in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is one of them.
“I have no doubt that a halakhic [religious legal] authority legitimised [Rabin’s assassin] Yigal Amir. It disturbs me that beyond that, I don’t know how he, on his own, succeeded in assassinating the prime minister,” Halevy said during an interview in 2016.
But even worse could happen as some Israeli activists including Amir’s wife established a party, Mishpat Tzedek, with a sole aim to advocate to release Rabin’s assassin.
The Israeli attorney general, who is not conducting a thorough investigation over the Jewish Underground and religious fanatics, angering Gillon, announced that the party could run candidates for recent March elections, refusing the Labor party’s demand for a ban.
“I don’t want to be here when Amir gets out of jail – and he will get out of jail, one way or another, even though he was sentenced to life imprisonment,” Halevy, the former Mossad chief, predicted in 2016.