Israel arrested five Palestinians in a plot allegedly hatched in Iran to target and spy on senior Israeli politicians, including Israel’s far-right national security minister, the country’s internal security agency said Wednesday.
The Shin Bet security service alleged that an Iranian security official living in neighboring Jordan had recruited three Palestinian men in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and another two Palestinian citizens of Israel to gather intelligence about several high-profile Israeli politicians.
The targets included National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir — a firebrand Israeli settler leader who oversees the country’s police force in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultranationalist government — as well as Yehuda Glick, an American-born far-right Israeli activist and former member of parliament.
The plan was foiled by Israeli intelligence officials, the Shin Bet said, without offering evidence.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.
Ben-Gvir, who draws inspiration from a racist rabbi, has provoked outrage across the wider Middle East for his particularly hard-line policies against the Palestinians, anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts and frequent public visits to the holiest and most contested site in the Holy Land. The hilltop compound in Jerusalem, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is at the emotional center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Glick is a leader in a campaign that pushes for increased Jewish access and prayer rights at the sacred Jerusalem compound, the holiest site in Judaism home to ancient biblical Temples. Today, the compound houses the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. Since Israel captured the site in 1967, Jews have been allowed to visit but not pray there. Glick survived a 2014 Palestinian assassination attempt.
The Shin Bet did not elaborate on the identity of the Iranian official in Jordan who allegedly orchestrated the plot. He is not in custody and apparently remains at large.
But the Shin Bet accused three Palestinian men in the West Bank — identified as 47-year old Murad Kamamaja, 34-year-old Hassan Mujarimah and 45-year-old Ziad Shanti — of gathering intelligence and smuggling weapons into Israel. The security service also said that it charged two Palestinian citizens of Israel over their involvement in the plot. It did not specify how the men planned to target Ben-Gvir and the other politicians.
Israel has considered Iran to be its greatest enemy since it became a Shiite theocracy during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran is a main patron of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which Israel considers the most potent military threat on its borders, and also backs Palestinian Islamist militant groups in the Gaza Strip.