The Shin Bet now says there is no evidence of a plot by Mercaz HaRav students to kill an Islamic leader. But…
…there is a hitch or two to this report, found in Ynet's Hebrew edition, Ma'ariv, and in the Jerusalem Post.
According to the Post, the Shin Bet's announcement calling reports of the plot "baseless" was made in response to this:
The Shin Bet announcement came hours after Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, told supporters during a rally in Umm el-Fahm that an Arab country had warned him of plans by extreme right-wing Jews to assassinate him.
Last week, several Israeli papers, led by Arutz 7 online, reported that the Minister of National Security, Avi Dichter, said the Channel One report of the student's plot was baseless. But the papers did not have Dichter's remark in quotation marks, and no paper attributed the remark in any way – in other words, no "Dichter told Arutz 7…" or "A senior ministry source told the Jerusalem Post…"
Our sometime Israel correspondent, the former Ellen Silman, complained that I did not report Dichter's remark as fact. I told Silman I couldn't report it because it had no real attribution. Further, because of the way the stories were written, I was sure the remark came from Minister Zevlun Orlev, the head of the National Religious Party, and a strong supporter of Mercaz Harav. Orlev called the Channel One report of a plot a "blood libel" even before any investigation had taken place, and before he himself had seen any evidence.
Sure enough, I was right:
Several days ago, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Orlev that neither the police nor the Shin Bet had information concerning such a plot.
The Post continues with its explanation of why the Shin Bet rushed to release this report clearing Mercaz HaRav, apparently releasing the information on or very closely after Shabbat:
Security officials explained Saturday that one of the main reasons for making the statement was to prevent the defaming of an entire sector in society - the National-Religious camp - as well as Yeshivat Mercaz Harav whose students were reported to have been involved in the fabricated plot.
"Clearing" Mercaz HaRav was so important, the Shin Bet had to rush to release its report on Shabbat?
The important thing was responding to Salah and the unnamed Arab country.
So, what's really going on with right wing plans to respond to terror with terror?
Those plans certainly exist. Only the most naive would think otherwise.
The Shin Bet will continue to closely monitor these cells and will, when the time is strategically right, pounce.
Will Mercaz HaRav students or rabbis be among those eventually arrested?
Time will tell.
But this rushed announcement "clearing" Mercaz HaRav should be seen for what it is, and not seen as a blanket approbation for the peaceful good intentions of Israel's increasingly hardline religious right.