Lehava director Bentzi Gopshtain
Lehava director Bentzi Gopshtain Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Despite repeated attempts to get the Lehava anti-assimilation organization branded as illegal, there is not enough evidence to make a case for this to happen, the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) announced Tuesday. 

Last December, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon asked the ISA to open an investigation against the organization, after 21 of its members were arrested for alleged extremist activity.

Ya'alon - as well as the legal counsel for the Defense Ministry - had asked the ISA to assess whether Lehava could be classified as having engaged in unlawful or racist activity. 

"Following a request from MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) to the Defense Minister, the ISA was contacted to investigate the organization," the ISA said Tuesday morning. "We examined the issue from a legal and intelligence standpoint. The conclusion was that, at this stage, there is no sufficient basis for declaring the organization as 'illegal.'" 

Lehava could still face legal action, however, if it is found to be operating illegally.

"The ISA continues to closely monitor the activities of the organization," the ISA noted. "If the evidence has been shown to be sufficient, the ISA will advise accordingly, after consultation with the prosecutor's office." 

The ISA's statement follows a resurgence of rhetoric against Lehava, in the wake of the stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade and the arson attack on a Palestinian family in the Palestinian Authority (PA) village of Duma. Lehava had been protesting the gay parade but there was no connection between it and the crazed extremist who stabbed six of the participants, murdering one of them.

Last week, Opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) called once again to outlaw the organization. 

Lehava's director, Bentzi Gopshtain, issued a strong response to Herzog's call to label his group a "terror organization."

"Instead of fighting the enemies of the nation of Israel, Buji (Herzog) prefers to hug the Holocaust denier (Mahmoud) Abbas and to encourage the enemies of Israel who are in the Knesset, and calls to brand good Jews working for the nation of Israel as lawbreakers."

"Of him (Hezog) the Jewish sages said that all those who show mercy on the wicked, in the end are cruel to the merciful," concluded Gopshtain.