JERUSALEM, June 2, (Agencies): Israel’s crackdown on Arab citizens trying to join Islamic State in Syria or Iraq or to set up cells at home have prevented the threat reaching the scale seen in the West, an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a magazine interview.
About 18 percent of Israel’s population are Muslim Arabs, many of whom identify with the Palestinian struggle, although they seldom take up arms against the majority Jewish country.
However, a rash of defections to Islamic State-held areas of Syria and Iraq and trials of Israeli citizens for identifying with the militant group prompted President Reuven Rivlin to warn in January that “considerable radicalisation” was taking root among Israel’s Arab minority. Eitan Ben-David, head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in Netanyahu’s office, told the bi-monthly journal ‘Israel Defense’ that “more than a few dozen, but not more than 100” Israeli Arabs had joined Islamic State’s ranks — and some might return.
Meanwhile, a delegation of American Jewish representaives on Wednesday expressed “significant disappointment” over Israel’s failure to carry out a historic agreement to allow non-Orthodox prayers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that relations with world Jewry could be harmed if the issue is not soon resolved. The delays in implementing the deal have added to strains between Netanyahu’s government and the liberal streams of Judaism that are dominant in the United States.