Reserves army post ransacked by settlers at Yitzhar, April 8, 2014 (Photo Credit: IDF)
Settler violence against the IDF in Yitzhar this week was an act of terror, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon charged on Wednesday during a ceremony at the Nevatim Air Base.
“We have to fight domestic terrorism, against those outlaws who attack IDF commanders, soldiers and Border Police who are doing their utmost day and night to safeguard the country and citizens. The State of Israel will not tolerate such criminal activity, which is terrorism in all respects,” said Ya’alon.
He warned that security forces are investing all means at their disposal to halt and arrest violent extremists.
Settlers viewed his rhetoric with concern, warning that it could lead to bloodshed in which an IDF soldier would shoot and kill a resident of Judea and Samaria.
Settler leaders from the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria have harshly condemned the violence that has occurred in the settlement in the last few days after a Jewish extremist on Sunday slashed the tires of an IDF jeep parked in Yitzhar.
Other settlers, who did not want to be named, however, said that the events and the ones that followed could hardly be compared to a terror attack and that classifying them as such was a dangerous overreaction.
Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika pledged that he would work to prevent such violence. At the same time, however, he charged the IDF helped inflame the situation when the day after the tire was slashed, security forced entered Yitzhar to demolish a number of illegal buildings.
That demolition, he said, was the equivalent of a “pricetag” attack in which revenge was exacted for the slashed tire.
Settlers clashed with security forces during Monday night’s demolition and lightly injured six officers. A group of 50 to 60 settlers then raided an army post located to the west of the settlement, destroying generators, army equipment, heaters and diesel fuel tanks.
A man in his 20s from the Gilad Farm outpost and a man in his 40s were arrested for suspected involvement in destroying the army post, police said.
In a separate incident, a 16-year-old boy in Yitzhar was arrested after throwing rocks at a police car in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Israel’s top politicians and leaders on Wednesday continued to condemn the events in Yitzhar.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) on Wednesday blamed them on the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians. “Everything is connected. Therefore, we see a phenomenon that has risen from the fact that we have not arrived at an agreement [with the Palestinians],” Livni said.
“The events that occurred in Yitzhar are a good example of this,” she said. The kinds of lines that are crossed in the West Bank make it hard to speak of democracy. As a result, “an ideology has flourished that does not recognize the rule of law, that does not recognize us or what we represent,” Livni said.
This kind of violence must be taken seriously, said Livni.
“Anyone who believes in democracy, government and the rule of law cannot close their eyes to this problem or accept it,” she said.
Speaking from Beijing in the course of a state visit to China, President Shimon Peres on Wednesday said, “From the very creation of the state, the Israel Defense Forces have been the nation’s most treasured asset, and an irresponsible group should not be permitted to harm them.”
The president recalled that when the state was founded, there was total national consensus with regard to attitudes to the IDF, whose soldiers were risking their lives in defense of the country. It was an accepted norm that no one would raise a hand or a voice against the IDF, he said. “The IDF was always the most unifying factor.”
Peres said that he was shocked to hear that such a dangerous and irresponsible group wants to damage that which is so dear to Israel and so vital to its continued existence in terms of national pride and self respect.
The nation must unite against negative phenomena of this kind and put a stop to it, Peres asserted.
Actions of this kind were unknown in the past and should not be allowed to continue in the future, he added.
It is impossible to evaluate the extent of the damage that such behavior has caused – not only to Israel’s security but also to national unity, said Peres who urged all Israelis to work toward national unity and to demonstrate responsibility by not allowing a small extreme group to become the rotten worms in Israel’s security.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Israel Radio Wednesday that he doesn’t know of a single MK who backs the actions of the settlers against security forces, adding that violence against them only hurts the settlements.