Leaders of the Yitzhar settlement on Thursday threatened to quit, unless the residents of their West Bank hilltop community pledged to stop attacking IDF soldiers and equipment.
The community’s secretariat announced its intention to hold a binding vote, in which residents would be asked to take a stand against the violence with the following statement.
“The Yitzhar settlement opposes the targeting of security forces within its settlement and the surrounding hilltops.”
Yitzhar residents would be asked to authorize the settlement’s rabbi to set the boundaries of any struggle with the IDF.
“We are asking the public to take responsibility and support us in this process,” it said. “We want to underscore that the secretariat is at a crossroads. We see no point in continuing if it turns out we lack a public mandate to lead.”
The secretariat won’t be able to function if the community continues along this “suicidal” path, it said.
The decision by the five-member elected board to ask the community to change its principles and practices followed a tumultuous week.
Settlers slashed the tires of IDF jeeps parked in Yitzhar twice and threw stones at security personnel.
The army in return demolished four illegal structures in the settlement.
In the clashes that ensued between settlers and security forces, six officers were lightly wounded. A group of 50 to 60 settlers then demolished an IDF post within Yitzhar, made of tents, that housed reserve soldiers stationed there to protect the community.
Police have since arrested nine people in connection with the violence. It raided Yitzhar late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, arresting five males ages 16 to 29. A sixth Yitzhar resident was arrested Thursday night. Earlier in the week, two other Yitzhar settlers were arrested as well as resident of the Gilad Farm outpost.
With the exception of one minor who apparently threw stones at security forces, all the rest were detained for their alleged involvement in the demolition of the IDF base. Police continue to search for additional suspects.
Over the past week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres have all condemned the violence.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has been particularly harsh and has three times this week, including on Thursday, called the Yitzhar attackers terrorists.
“From my perspective, this is terrorism. We need to treat these events as terrorist acts,” Ya’alon said on Thursday.
He spoke while holding security consultations on the matter for the second time in two days.
“This intolerable phenomenon is very serious and must be stopped. We are acting and will continue to act with a heavy hand against these criminals. It is unacceptable for people to raise their hand against soldiers, police or innocent Palestinians. Those who behave in this way will pay a price,” Ya’alon said.
The IDF has taken measures, unrelated to security, against the Samaria Regional Council.
Late Wednesday night it canceled a Passover festival that it holds annually on the ruins of the former Homesh settlement.
Both the Homesh hilltop and Yitzhar are under the auspices of the Samaria Regional Council.
The violence in Yitzhar is part of a wider pattern that has gone on for years, in which settlers execute revenge attacks against soldiers or Palestinians in reaction to IDF demolitions of illegal homes.
The Yitzhar secretariat on Thursday said that it opposed those demolitions, but that a strategy of violence has harmed the larger cause of building up the land of Israel.
This week the secretariat expanded its membership to seven and asked the community’s rabbi, David Dudkevitch, to set nonviolent boundaries for the struggle for the Land of Israel that is consistent with Jewish laws and principles.
“To our sorrow, in these last days, in our community, we have witnessed acts of violence against IDF soldiers and security forces,” its statement said.
Such acts run counter to the community’s principles and the dictates of Jewish law, the secretariat said. It added that the general public viewed the violence as illegitimate.
“One can not ignore the direct link between the different attacks that were executed and the destruction in the community [of four structures by the IDF].
“It is incumbent upon us in this reality to rethink our strategy against the security forces,” it said.