The facts remain inconclusive, but all indications are that what happened on Tuesday in the village of Kusra - where a group of settlers was trapped and held against their will in the home of a Palestinian, surrounded by an angry mob, and subsequently humiliated and beaten until the IDF intervened and extricated them from the mess – leads us to a simple observation. This was a “price tag” incident that was stopped in its tracks.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Israel that cracked the case. It wasn’t the Israel Security Service. It wasn’t Military Intelligence. It wasn’t Mossad. No, it was the Palestinians who caught the settlers in real time and sought to mete out their own punishment. This time, it ended with no casualties. A kind of miracle, one can say.
Soon afterward, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett was giving a speech.
From his standpoint, it was a historic address. The games are over, Bennett said. We have no intention of playing word games. Negotiating peace based on the ’67 lines, he declared, is tantamount to a partition of Jerusalem. We will not remain in a government that agrees to this. In other words, what he was saying was, “Bibi, you have no mandate.”
Bennett is in a difficult position. He is under tremendous pressure from his rabbis, particularly those from “Tekuma.” These are the rabbis who dispatch the settlers who somehow make it to villages like Kusra and carry out some sort of price tag. These are the rabbis who stoke the fires and incite their disciples to act. These are the rabbis whose sermons, religious interpretations, and rulings provide legitimacy and a moral imprimatur to large gangs of vigilantes who feel as if they have license to roam the hills of Judea and Samaria and search for barely-burning coals so that they can pour barrels of oil on them.
So Bennett made his speech. On the surface, it seems as if he sent a clear message to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would not agree to remain in the government “if and when…” Since nobody knows whether this is really going to happen, Bennett’s statements were devoid of any real significance.
Netanyahu hasn’t reached the stage for Bennett to be fearful. Neither has Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. US Secretary of State John Kerry is the only one who has, at least for the time being. It seems as if nothing of substance is going to come out of this, so Bennett could relax.
The question is now whether we - the sane, normal Israelis who don’t believe the Palestinians but are acutely aware of the need to separate from them – could relax. The Israelis who believe that Israel’s strength lies in its unity, its international legitimacy, its moral authority – can they, too, relax? These are the Israelis who believed in something that was once referred to as “the justness of our cause,” but it is slipping through their fingertips. Bennett, who tried to portray himself as such an Israeli during the last election campaign, said that the games are over.
Yes, Naftali. You’re not willing to play word games anymore. But what about playing with fire? You’re certainly doing that, boy, are you ever. The next intifada will ignite when a certain gang of “price tag” vigilantes enters the wrong village, at the wrong time. The IDF won’t be there to save them, and neither will “the village elders.” Blood will be spilt. A lot of blood will be spilt, and rivers of blood will flow afterward. As if not enough has flowed already. For some, though, it appears that more blood needs to be spilt. At least they’re mindful of the most important thing – we are in the right.