Friday, November 07, 2008

Settlers preparing for war, says Shin Bet chief

Dear G-d, might it be the start of that very real (and very unwelcome) possibility of an Israeli Civil War that I've been warning against? This could indeed be the moment when stances on both sides harden and where Jews are pitted against each other. The Government's decision to stop all support for illegal outposts may be seen in that light: unpopular as it will be in many Israeli quarters, this may be the clearest sign yet that Israel is preparing its people for a withdrawal behind the Green Line.

By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

A government decision to evacuate more territory may lead to a large-scale violent conflict with settlers, complete with live fire, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin warned at yesterday's cabinet meeting. The meeting ended with the ministers voting to end all government support, both direct and indirect, for illegal outposts.

"The scope of the conflict will be much larger than it is today and than it was during the disengagement," Diskin warned. "Our investigation found a very high willingness among this public to use violence - not just stones, but live weapons - in order to prevent or halt a diplomatic process."

While Diskin did not comment explicitly on the danger of another political assassination, the timing of his warning - just days before the anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination - was not lost on cabinet members.

"They [the settlers] don't think like us. Their thought is messianic, mystic, satanic and irrational," Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said, warning of another political assassination.

"What we are seeing today is the result of a deep rift with the faith-based community, and not only in the West Bank," Diskin said. "Their approach began with the slogan 'through love, we will win' during the [Gaza] disengagement, but has now reached 'through war, we will win."

He also warned that right-wing extremists view their "price tag" policy, in which they retaliate for every outpost evacuation with attacks on soldiers and/or Palestinians, as having been successful, and are therefore liable to expand it to within the Green Line.

The Shin Bet believes there are a few hundred extremists of this type.

"There is no clear leadership," Diskin said. "They are motivated by a unity of purpose - not to allow the security forces to evacuate people."

Following the cabinet vote on the outposts, the Yesha Council of settlements termed the decision "scandalous and demagogic," saying there is "no connection" between the outposts and extremist violence.

"The decision constitutes collective punishment and denies essential services to loyal citizens whose only sin is living in communities that the State of Israel built and sold apartments in, but has not yet finished the process of approving," it stated.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel also called the decision discriminatory, as many illegal Arab neighborhoods receive services from the state.

In addition to its decision on outposts, the cabinet ordered a ministerial committee headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to submit recommendations within two weeks on how to tighten law enforcement, including by taking action against civil servants who facilitate illegal outpost construction.

Most of the meeting, however, was devoted to ministerial tirades against violent settlers and attempts by security and law enforcement agencies to pass blame.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said that about one-tenth of Israel's total police force is already in the West Bank, and that it is impossible to transfer additional forces there, other than temporarily for specific missions. He also said that lenient sentencing by the courts deters the police from pursuing indictments "even when they have a suspect in hand."

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz accused the Knesset of delaying legislation that would allow stiffer penalties for incitement and ban demonstrations opposite the houses of civil servants. He also said the Israel Defense Forces must make greater use of administrative orders barring extremists from the West Bank.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi responded that the army recently issued five such orders.

"Because of this, they [the settlers] are harassing GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni," he said.

Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan said that some 700 Palestinians are under administrative detention, "but when we wanted to issue detention orders for Jews, the Knesset denounced it."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the problem stems from the fact that Israel has no eastern border, and therefore every government must view setting borders as its primary mission.


At 4:42 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

I think that only the most extreme fringes among the settlers would decide to rebel against Israel. Since those willing to fight the government and the army will be a very small minority there won't be a full-scale civil war. What worries me is terrorism against Arabs both in the West Bank and inside Israel, as well as assassinations of political and military leaders.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Gert said...


I'm not so sure, but I sure hope I'm wrong on this (it's hard to sense the mood of the country from the outside, of course).

The study of the history of conflict development shows though that in societies, ever-deepening rifts evolve from grandstanding and a war of words to the use of low-level violence to escalation into lethal and widespread violence. I don't think that Israel is uniquely immune to this kind of dynamic.

What remains difficult to judge for me is just how deep support for the settler movement runs in parts of Israeli society and how many of the more rational settlers will follow in the footsteps of their more violently disposed brethren and join the armed resistance when push comes to shove...

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Baconeater said...

I think the amount of Israelis who support the settlements has increased a lot since the Gaza withdrawal.
It brings those who want to destroy Israel closer.
So I can understand it.
Personally, I've always been a proponent of evacuating the territories, handing the Palis a sovereign state whether they want it or not, and then war would become totally legit if the Palis invaded.
Not that I want that to happen, I just think it is almost guaranteed to.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

The Settlers are the victims hoping to defend themselves against an enemy that wants to destroy their homes, synagogues, cemetaries, schools, land, religion, and everything they've lived for. Those who seek to expel them are duplicitous agents fighting against the Jews on behest of the arabs. I sincerely hope that any Machivellian IDF pogrom launched against these Jews is met with fierce and deadly resistance.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

mad zionist: Maybe us sane Israelis should just withdraw our military and let the Palestinians deal with you. After all, we're the ones who defended you with our soldiers and our taxes and you don't seem to appreciate it, so we should just stop and let you and the Palestinians fight with each other.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Gert said...


As I always say, it wasn't G-d that gave them the land (OT), it was the IDF.

Which up to now, by and large has had to protect them. Without the IDF, no settlements...

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gert: First of, please don't feel sorry for me. I don't; why should you? Because I hold different opinions from yours? I think my opinions are legitimate.

Second: Are you worried about an Israeli "civil war" as much as you worry about a Palestinian civil war?

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Gert said...


OK. Nowhere do I recall saying I feel sorry for you. I do worry about you. Not the same thing...

A very low level intensity Palestinian civil war has been going on for quite some time now.

The Israeli one could be far bloodier and fiercer though. I hope thoroughly I'm wrong on this...

Question to you:

If the Israeli government asks WB settlers to withdraw, do you think they [the settlers] have the right to use live fire to prevent that and stay where they are?

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gert: No, I don't think "settlers" have the right or rather the moral responsibility to shoot at soldiers evacuating them. We didn't shoot in Yamit, we didn't shoot in Hevron, Amona, etc.

An Israeli civil war would probably be bloodier because there is a lot more passion involved and there's a lot more on the line: the continuation of the existence of a Jewish State.


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