Author Topic: ...and Israel finally realizes it has created a settler monster  (Read 425 times)

Cain

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...and Israel finally realizes it has created a settler monster
« on: December 21, 2011, 09:41:06 pm »
http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/12/19/israels_emerging_jewish_hezbollah

The title is a bit dramatic...but not too overly.

Quote
Seven months ago, during the early morning hours of May 30, Jewish settlers visiting Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank engaged in a shoving match with IDF soldiers deployed to protect them. Within minutes, the confrontation escalated; several soldiers were punched by Jewish worshippers and rocks rained down on the soldiers from settlers atop the tomb. A YouTube video of the incident was later circulated on the internet at the request of the IDF. The Nablus incident was among the first in a growing series of confrontations between settlers and the Israeli military -- and it sent shock waves through the Israeli military establishment. Brig. General Yoav Mordechai called the settlers "irresponsible lawbreakers" and pointed out that the IDF in the West Bank was deployed to protect settlers from "terrorists." His message was clear: the settler confrontation had placed the lives of his soldiers at risk.

Mordechai's statement must have brought wry smiles to Palestinian villagers near Nablus, whose olive groves have been burned and mosques desecrated by the same settlers who attacked the IDF detachment. But the Joseph's Tomb incident was only the beginning: throughout July and August, settlers from Yitzhar -- a hotbed of settler extremism -- forced a series of confrontations with the IDF until, in August, a stone-throwing incident pitting settlers against Palestinians threatened to get out of control, with the IDF pushing Palestinians away from the settlers in order to protect them from the violence -- and not the other way around. "It was an amazing scene," a Palestinian organizer who witnessed the incident said during a recent trip to Washington. "At one point, one of the IDF commanders turned to me and said, ‘why don't you do us a favor and just shoot these people?'"

The settler-on-IDF confrontations have increased over the last weeks, sending ripples of concern through the Israeli establishment. While no senior Israeli elected official has yet to suggest that the program of settlement expansion needs to be rethought, the viewpoint is the subject of sotto voce reflections throughout the Jewish state. After all, the unstated goal of the national settlement enterprise is to put obstacles in the way of Palestinian national claims -- not to seed a nascent and nasty internal conflict. Now, and particularly if the confrontations continue (or escalate), Israeli officials will have to ask themselves whether it is wise to continue a program that is providing the equivalent of a Palestinian fifth column. It's not as if the Palestinians haven't noticed. Asked about the recent settler-IDF dust-ups near Nablus, a serving Palestinian legislator waves away a question about whether or not Abu Mazen and company will return to the peace talks: "What we ought to do is sit back and watch," he says, "while Israel starts to unravel."

"I don't want to exaggerate, but it's time to call this what it is," a veteran IDF officer noted in a recent telephone conversation on the Nablus incident. "It might be news in America, but it's no secret in Israel. This is a very real crisis. What we have here is the birth of a state within a state. The birth of a kind of Jewish Hezbollah." This former officer went on to speculate that "what is emerging in the West Bank" is "a three-state solution: Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and, standing between them, a radical settler state." Yehuda Shaul, an organizer of Breaking The Silence -- a group of IDF soldiers committed to publicizing the reality of being an Israeli soldier in the West Bank -- is unwilling to go that far, though he confirms that the series of escalations between settlers and the IDF has roiled the Israeli military. "The IDF is in the West Bank to control tens of thousands of Palestinians," he notes, "but they're having the most trouble controlling the settlers. It's quite an irony."

I've long wondered if, unlikely though it is, another Rabin ever emerged in the Israeli political scene, and had a party behind him, and wasn't assassinated, whether the Israeli settlers would turn out to be the larger problem in the long run.  In some ways, it is probably better that Bibi and Barak are in power right now, as they're the only people who can credibly move against the settlers.

I've also heard, though I cannot verify this, that many of the settlers in these regions tend to be from the former USSR or the USA, and so are quite contemptous of Israeli authority anyway.  A possible factor, certainly.  They might be legally Israeli citizens, but they could have flown in from anywhere else in the world, with no understanding of the local situation at all.

Either way, it's a trend that doesn't bode well.  Israel's grip on the occupied territories are doomed by demographics.  The presence of the settlers just mean that when the contest becomes widespread and violent, Israel will possibly be fighting two different enemies.

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Re: ...and Israel finally realizes it has created a settler monster
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2011, 10:07:46 pm »
What provoked the attack on mosque and olive grove? Was it provoked at all?
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Cain

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Re: ...and Israel finally realizes it has created a settler monster
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2011, 10:10:03 pm »
Who knows?  There is on-off violence in the territories often, and it doesn't help that the settlers are usually quite...fundamentalist in their demand for Israel to encompass all of the historical territory of the Israelite kingdom.  They may have attacked it in revenge for an earlier Palestinian attack (which was no doubt revenge for something else etc etc) or just because it was a Mosque on what should be "Jewish" land.