For nearly two decades, Yesh Din has been documenting offenses committed by Israeli civilians – settlers and others – against Palestinians and their property in the OPT and helping crime victims file complaints with the Israel Police if they choose to do so. The data obtained through these cases over the years constitutes a singular, broad, cumulative sample that enables an analysis of how the Israel Police responds to ideologically motivated crime by Israelis in the West Bank.

Offenses committed by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank carry a particular significance as they occur as part of a regime in which one national group is controlled and oppressed by another. The offenders are citizens of the State of Israel who enjoy privileges and have the military’s protection, while the victims are Palestinians who are forced to live under a repressive regime and suffer from systemic discrimination in rights and resources.

Settlers use violence to expand the breadth of Israel’s takeover of Palestinian lands, sowing fear and terror among Palestinians and disrupting their daily lives. In this way, separate offenses committed by individuals combine to form a system of ideological crime that is designed to dispossess Palestinians of their lands.

An analysis of Yesh Din data proves the Israeli law enforcement system fails in fulfilling its duty to protect Palestinians from Israeli violence. These failings can be observed in every aspect of the Israeli law enforcement system’s response to ideologically motivated crime by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank: ineffective prevention, failed police investigations, low indictment rate, and lenient sentences for convicted offenders.

The fact that this systemic failure has continued for at least two decades evinces that the State of Israel normalizes and supports ideologically motivated violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank as a matter of policy and benefits from its effects.

93.7% of all investigation files were closed without an indictment

Since 2005, Yesh Din has monitored 1,664 investigation files into cases of violence by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). Of the 1,615 concluded investigations, indictments were filed in just 107 (6.6%). Analyzing the circumstances under which investigation files were closed reveals that the police failed in the investigation of 81% of files opened since 2005. The high rate of failure points to a longstanding systemic and deliberate failure in law enforcement responses to ideologically motivated crime against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Only 3% of investigation files led to a conviction

As of September 2023, in 93 cases of offenses committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the West Bank and monitored by Yesh Din, police investigations concluded in indictments with known outcomes. Only 54% (50 cases) of the indictments resulted in full or partial convictions; 46% of the proceedings (43 cases) ended in nothing, either after the court found the defendants guilty but still decided not to convict them for their actions or after the indictment was vacated or withdrawn.

In total, since 2005, only 3% of investigation files opened into ideologically motivated offenses by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank and monitored by Yesh Din led to full or partial convictions. The low conviction rate sends the message that the law enforcement system, in its entirety, does not consider settler violence to be a serious issue, contributing to the perpetrators’ sense of immunity and the recurrence of these acts.

Mistrust in the Israeli authorities

In addition to the monitored investigations, Yesh Din has documented hundreds of incidents of settler violence in which the Palestinian crime victims chose not to file a complaint with the police. In most, if not all, of these cases, the offenses go uninvestigated by the police. Yesh Din data shows that since the inauguration of Israel’s 37th government, more Palestinians are reluctant to file a complaint with the police against Israelis who harmed them.

Of 160 cases of settler violence against Palestinians or their property documented by Yesh Din between January and September 2023, 92 of the crime victims (57.5%) chose not to file a complaint with the police. Of these, 86 (54%) expressed mistrust in Israeli law enforcement authorities or feared that filing a complaint would harm them or result in a permit revocation. These numbers point to incompetence on the part of Israeli enforcement agencies in the West Bank that do not investigate all incidents of settler violence and do nothing to allay Palestinians’ mistrust in the establishment that should protect them from violence.