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Israel moves to rein in right-wing extremists

Just ahead of the anniversary of the killing of Yitzhak Rabin – the former Israeli prime minister murdered by a Jewish extemist in 1995 – security forces publicized the arrest of Yaakov Teitel. Murder accusations against Teitel are again fanning concern in Israel about nationalist vigilantes.

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Around 2003, he moved permanently to Shvut Rachel, a small religious community nestled in a region of settlements where it's common to see posters praising Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank.

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Around a decade later, he planted bombs outside the homes of Zeev Sternhell, a prominent left-wing political science professor from Hebrew University, and a Messianic Jewish family in the settlement of Ariel. Police also accused him planting a bomb near officers patrolling a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.

Teitel reportedly claimed responsibility for an August shooting attack that killed two in a gay youth group in Tel Aviv, but police don't believe him.

Vigilante cases can throw off peace talks

A year prior to the infamous Rabin assassination, peace talks were thrown off track after Brooklyn-native Baruch Goldstein gunned down Muslims at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs shrine in the West Bank city of Hebron, and was then killed himself.

Like Mr. Goldstein and Yigal Amir, Teitel appeared to operate on his own rather than as part of a clandestine militia. Family members and neighbors from Shvut Rachel say they had no indications of Teitel's alleged propensity for violence.

"People are surprised by the allegations," says Shvut Rachel spokesman Shmaya Tiram. "He was a familiar but unknown person. He was introverted and quiet."

But Israeli columnists argued on Monday that security services should have apprehended Teitel faster, suggesting that not enough resources are being invested to uncover Jewish militants.

"If there is an accelerated peace process, if there is need to evacuate settlements once again, the result is going to be bitter clashes," wrote Alex Fishman, a political columnist for Yediot Ahronot newspaper. "The Teitel affair teaches us that not only do the lunatic fringes exist, but that they are armed and aren't afraid."

Residents of Shvut Rachel expressed concern that the allegations would leave a stain on the community as extremist.

"All I can say is, this is not the way we live, and this is not our agenda," says Sarah Avitan, Teitel's sister-in-law. "We don't take the law into our own hands."

Also: Following murders, Israelis ask if immigration laws too lax

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