Bennett declares counter-terrorism unit
Bennett declares counter-terrorism unitKobi Gideon/GPO

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit as the Israel National Counter-Terrorism Unit, at a qualification ceremony for its members today (Wednesday, 1 December 2021). Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, Religious Services Minister Matan Kahane, Israel Police Inspector General Yaakov Shabtai, Israeli Security Agency (ISA) Director Ronen Bar, Border Police Commander Amir Cohen, the commander of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, unit members and their families, and other senior officials attended the ceremony.

The decision is based on staff work led by the National Security Council in recent years, which recommended moving forward on the issue. To this end, NIS 10 million will be allocated from the Prime Minister's Office budget in 2022 to strengthen the unit, boost its resources, increase personnel and upgrade training, especially weaponry and training infrastructures.

The decision, which was taken in coordination with the Defense Minister, Public Security Minister and the Israel Police Inspector General, will be submitted for approval by the Ministerial Committee on National Security (the Security Cabinet) at one of its upcoming meetings.

The Police Counter-Terrorism Unit is an elite Israel Police unit that combines a range of unique capabilities and means for counter-terrorism and the fight against complex criminal incidents while constantly cooperating with the other security and intelligence agencies in Israel in order to realize its relative advantage in the area.

Given the unit's significant efforts on behalf of the security of Israel, its expertise in dealing with terrorism and in leading a long series of daring actions and operations over many years, Prime Minister Bennett decided to officially define it as Israel National Counter-Terrorism Unit.

Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Bennett's remarks at the ceremony:

"This year, Chanukah has brought with it another important reason to celebrate. On the holiday that focuses on the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, when only a few short kilometers from here took place the heroic battle of the Maccabees at Emmaus, where with stratagems and daring they defeated the Greeks, we are pleased to bring good news today to the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit including its members and commanders throughout the years.

I am pleased to announce here today that I have decided to define the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit as Israel National Counter-Terrorism Unit. The decision will be submitted to the Security Cabinet soon. My goal is that the unit will be the best counter-terrorism unit in the world, and you are the right people for the job. For 47 years you have been the unit.

This declaration expresses the great appreciation that the country and its citizens feel to the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit and its many years of service. This declaration embodies the high esteem and gratitude for the sacrifice, dedication and perseverance that has characterized the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit since its first days. On a personal note, I would like to say that you hold to the very special values of humility – there is no mission that you cannot handle, dedication, and of being able to go far with few means. In the framework of this decision, we will significantly increase the means.

And indeed, how symbolic is the fact that at the place where we are gathered today, the home of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, this base is so close to the heroic Maccabees' battlefield at Emmaus from 2,100 years ago. Then it was the Maccabees, today it is the members of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, and between them a single line of sacrifice and daring in defending the land and its revival.

My friends, reorganizing the status of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit as the National Counter-Terrorism Unit is an important force multiplier that will also greatly shape the future of the unit for years to come.

For many years, the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit has concentrated a range of abilities and unique means in the fight against terrorism and complex criminal incidents, and all at full and immediate readiness with high operational quality. The Police Counter-Terrorism Unit carries a considerable portion of the operational activity of the Israel Police and the special forces – rescuing hostages along conventional and less conventional lines, fighting against terrorism and its infrastructures, and the ability to carry out high-risk arrests, and in the world of serious crime. In all of these areas, the State of Israel and its leaders over the years have known that there is someone they can rely on. In order to maximize its advantages, the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit works in coordination with all security and intelligence agencies – the IDF, the ISA and the Mossad.

Members of the unit and their families, the State of Israel, which faces multiple challenges on all fronts, must have an elite unit, the best of the best, which fights against those who seek to harm us. This unit can be proud of a glorious tradition and a long-standing battle heritage - from the mothers' bus attack in Dimona, through the coastal road attack to the capture of the murderers of the late Minister Rechavam Zeevy. Every day, every week, you are in the field, you are active. Today, the unit can be proud of the national recognition given to it.

I would like to congratulate you, the unit commanders and its members, on this festive and important day, and to thank you from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of all the citizens of Israel - for days and nights of brave and determined action for the sake of us all.

I would like to thank Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Israel Police Inspector General Yaakov Shabtai, the Commander of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit and the Commander of the Border Police, who were partners in the move and will lead it to fruition. Thank you all. Happy Chanukah. "

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev:

"The declaration of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit as the Israel National Counter-Terrorism Unit should have been done a long time ago, and we are here to do it - better late than never. The National Counter-Terrorism Unit is currently at the forefront of the operational activities of the Israel Police, the IDF and the ISA, of the national security of the State of Israel, and is required for the most complex and important operations carried out. Every year, its members are directly responsible for saving the lives of dozens and hundreds of Israelis, most of whom are not even aware that they were in danger. I thank the Prime Minister for the important decision that will help improve the security of the country's citizens and do great justice by its very nature."