Five “spying settlers” are to be convicted as part of a plea bargain of running
a “war room” to track military movements and block any IDF actions to demolish
illegal outposts, but will be given much more lenient sentences than originally
expected, the state prosecutor announced on Wednesday.
The actual counts
that the settlers – Akiva Hacohen, Elad Meir, Ephraim Moshe Chaykin, Meir
Etinger and David Eliyahu – will be charged with include: providing to others
military information about the IDF, conspiracy to commit a felony, disturbing
law enforcement and others.
Originally, the prosecutor hoped to convict
the five of spying and of masterminding and coordinating an attack against the
Ephraim Brigade base in December 2011, during which 50 activists shocked the
country by storming the base, attacking the deputy brigade commander, burning
tires, spreading nails on a road and throwing stones and paint bottles at
Against that backdrop, the proposed sentences under the plea
agreement – three to five months in prison for some of the activists and only
suspended sentences and fines for others – were far more lenient than
Media reports expressed surprise at the lenient sentences for
what many had viewed as a flagship case for the state to show toughness in the
face of increased anti- IDF activity by some “price tag” activists in recent
Asked why the sentences were more lenient than expected, the
prosecutor’s office released a statement saying they had considered a series of
complex factors, including the evidentiary circumstances, the expected
complications in the litigation and the desire to send a clear and unequivocal
message to the public that the actions were criminal and warranted a prison
The settlers’ attorneys, on the other hand, said the state had
seen reason, realizing it had no proof connecting the activists to the
According to the indictment that the settlers have admitted to as
part of the plea agreement, both active soldiers from the Golani and other
brigades as well as nonsoldiers passed on information to the settlers regarding
military movements, via text messages and cellphones.
The activists had
set up a “war room” in an apartment they shared in Jerusalem, which had
classified aerial maps and information about deployments and movements of
troops, as well as other classified information.
The men also allegedly
operated a hotline for concerned activists to call whenever they saw troop
movements consistent with outpost evacuations.
The initiative of
systematically tracking and trying to coordinate activists to block IDF actions
to demolish illegal outposts began in June 2011, said the indictment.
of the men, Etinger, also plead guilty to disturbing police, when he violated
the rules of his bail and attempted to resist arrest when he was
The incident, the most serious in a series of so-called “price
tag” attacks by settlers and right-wing activists against Palestinians and the
IDF at the time, came just hours after security forces evacuated about 20
activists from an abandoned building they had raided along Israel’s border with
The base was near the settlement of Kedumim.
convicting the five of orchestrating the attacks on the IDF at the base, the
indictment did say that the settlers’ war room was extraordinarily active during
the exact time the attack was taking place and that they received reports about
IDF activities from as many as 30 sources in that time period.
time, IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Army Radio that a red line
had been crossed by settlers, who he said were trying to drag the army into
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Mordechai said, has
cleared his schedule “and I expect [the West Bank settler leadership] will hear
“There is no doubt that we are seeing radical actors, who have
a leadership behind them – certain rabbis – who want to drag the army into
political matters,” the IDF spokesman said.
Yaakov Katz contributed to