There is an illusion of autonomy that allows Israeli governments to defy the United States even while they remain dependent on American military aid and diplomatic protection. Likewise, Jewish settlers living in the West Bank operate as a law unto themselves and defy the state of Israel even while remaining utterly dependent on that state for their security and economic support. In each case, the lesser power manipulates the greater power by threatening to unleash chaos — and these are not empty threats.
After settlers attacked Israeli soldiers yesterday, a senior IDF commander said a red line had been crossed, but has it? Can Israel’s security services reign in lawless settlers when the ranks and officers of those forces are increasingly made up of settlers?
Haaretz reports: Dozens of Jewish settlers surrounded an IDF patrol vehicle on Wednesday evening near the Shilo settlement, setting up roadblocks and physically assaulting IDF soldiers.
The incident began after rumors circulated that the Gal Yosef illegal outpost is about to be evacuated. At approximately 9 P.M. the settlers erected roadblocks and blocked the entrance to the outpost with their cars.
An IDF patrol vehicle that arrived on the scene was blocked by settlers. The soldiers tried to turn back, but were stopped by more roadblocks.
The vehicle was then surrounded by a few dozen youth from nearby settlements. When the soldiers asked them to let the vehicle pass, one of the soldiers was punched in the face, prompting a violent clash between the two sides. Soldiers who were called to the scene were able to detain one of the attackers, but he managed to escape.
A senior IDF commander said that “the army sees this incident as crossing a red line, and the settlers who were involved in violence against the soldiers will be arrested soon by the police.”
Officers serving in the West Bank have reported recently that tensions between security forces and settlers are on the rise. According to one senior office, “the security forces spend more time dealing with incidents involving Israeli citizens than confronting Palestinian terrorism.”
The Gush Shilo area has recently become one of the main friction points between Israeli security forces and settlers. Over the past few weeks, settlers have been attacking Palestinian farmers’ property in the nearby village of Qusra, almost on a daily basis. On Thursday morning, villagers discovered some 200 olive and fig trees were uprooted or damaged throughout the night.
According to a recent Shin Bet security service report, right-wing extremists no longer appear to need a “trigger” to take action, while the targets of the violence are also widening – military vehicles at an IDF base near Ramallah have been vandalized, and threatening graffiti was sprayed onto the apartment door of a left-wing activist. Attacks on Arabs and their property are carried out when the opportunity arises, the Shin Bet officials add.
The Shin Bet also warned that the delegitimization campaign that extreme right-wing activists are conducting against civil servants could end in serious violence.