Israeli police announced Sunday that an American-born settler suspected of a series of terrorist acts against both Palestinians and Jews was arrested last month, confirming rumors that have been circulating on the internet for weeks. Yaakov Teitel, who grew up in a born-again ultra-Orthodox family in Florida and Virginia, was arrested in Israel in 1997 for—and confessed to—allegedly killing two Palestinians, but released on grounds of insufficient evidence. After a stint back in the United States, he and his family moved to a West Bank settlement outpost, where Teitel allegedly made a package bomb that wounded a child in a messianic Jewish family, attempted to kill a leftist Jewish professor; he’s also claiming involvement in the Tel Aviv gay center shooting this summer (though police say that on that last count, he might be falsely bragging).
So why did it take Shin Bet security forces 12 years to catch a serial terrorist who’d already confessed to murder? A Haaretz op-ed concludes that Teitel may never have been caught at all if he hadn’t started targeting Jews: “as with many other cases of murder and violence committed against Palestinians, the story of the shepherd from Yatta and the taxi driver from East Jerusalem”—his 1997 victims—–“disappeared into oblivion—until Teitel returned and attempted to harm Jews, bringing the wrath of public opinion, the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police down on his head.” The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile wonders why Teitel was granted a gun license after returning to Israel. On the other end of the spectrum, a commentator on Ynet argued that the secular media is exploiting the case of one outlier to villainize the ultra-Orthodox community.