Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Looming West Bank Crisis

Along with the looming UN General Assembly vote on recognizing a Palestinian state, and the IDF's arming of West Bank settlements in expectation of Palestinian demonstrations accompanying the vote, comes an even more worrisome and potentially lethal development: settlers in the West Bank are organizing into terrorist groups to exact payback for actions taken against them by the IDF and peace activists.  As reported in The Independent (citing report in Haaretz):

Shin Bet sources told the liberal Ha'aretz newspaper that the Jewish groups were essentially engaged in "terrorist activity" by planning attacks, conducting covert surveillance of Palestinian villages, and gathering data on Israeli activists. The disclosure reveals growing unease among the security forces at their inability to contain increasingly militant settlers, seemingly bent on exacting revenge for every move against them through so-called "price tag" attacks – where Palestinian property is destroyed for every hostile move towards the settlers by the Israeli authorities.

In recent days, settlers are suspected of defacing two Palestinian mosques, uprooting and setting fire to olive trees, torching cars and daubing graffiti on the walls of a Palestinian university in Birzeit. Vandals also broke into an Israeli army base, slashing tyres and spray painting "price tag" on army vehicles, and wrecked the engines of bulldozers used for the demolitions in Migron.

At the home of an Israeli activist who works for Israel's Peace Now, which monitors the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the assailants' slogans included "Migron forever" and "Death to traitors". "They want to silence us, to scare us. It's not going to happen," said the activist, who did not want to be named.

In a statement, Peace Now called for "emergency measures against what is becoming the new Jewish underground".

Ideologically-motivated settlers, who believe they have a divine right to the West Bank, represent some of the most right-wing opinion in Israel. Though a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, many settlers remain fiercely opposed to either a bi-national state or to Palestinian statehood, doubting that the two peoples could exist peacefully side by side.

"We need to erase the idea of a Palestinian state from people's minds and convince the world that Islam is a danger," Michael Ben-Ari, a right-wing politician and settler, told a workshop this week.

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