Barak: Consider 'hilltop youth' a terror group

Defense minister says as far as their behavior is concerned, "there is no doubt that we're talking about terrorists."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak Wednesday morning said the legal possibility of classifying the "hilltop youth" group of young radical settlers as a terrorist group, saying "as far as their behavior is concerned, there is no doubt that we are talking about terrorists."
The proper way to deal those individuals and groups perpetrating violence, however, is legal action, the defense minister told Army Radio.
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Barak was responding to Monday night and
Tuesday morning's settler violence against IDF property and personnel, during which young settlers threw stones at passing vehicles, attacked an IDF brigade commander and infiltrated and vandalized an army base in the West Bank.Explaining how the army was caught off guard by an attack by dozens of settlers on an IDF base in the West Bank Tuesday, Barak said "the IDF intelligence does not collect information on residents of Judea and Samaria, and the army's view is that Israelis are not an intelligence target."Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also reacted to the events in a statement released Wednesday. She said that Tuesday night's arson attack on a mosque in Jerusalem was a hate crime, and "part of the same wave of wild violence" that IDF officers were victim to Tuesday.
"It is not a handful, it is an extremist Israeli group that is growing, and that is trying hard to turn Israel into another type of state in their radical image," said Livni. 
"They are trying to push our boundaries and impose their ideology on us. It is our duty, the Zionist majority, to take our state back and to show them that they can not cross our boundaries. Condemnations will not suffice. The government must today arrest all those involved in the incidents of the past two days, to punish them severely... to continue to evacuate illegal outposts in order to show that Israel enforces its laws and values," she continued.
"Otherwise, the message sent to them is that Netanyahu's government lets them take Israel captive with their extremist views," Livni concluded.
Adding to the chorus of voices, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) described the events as "serious incidents that are part of a criminal ideology of extremists who want to out themselves above the law."
"The state must act in the most serious manner in order to enforce the law," said Sa'ar Wednesday morning in an interview with Army Radio.
"Imprisonment is justified in these cases, because these are dangerous people. In a legal sense, I believe that  we can classify them as a terrorist organization," the education minister stated. 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz fiercely criticized the settler violence against the IDF on Tuesday, with the prime minister vowing to deal with the perpetrators with a heavy hand.
Speaking at the Conference for Alumni of the National Security Institute in Jerusalem, the prime minister said he had submitted a plan to the cabinet for dealing with the assailants.
We will combine investigative teams in the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police and we will conquer this evil affliction," he said. Gantz, who spoke before the prime minister, called the attack an "unfathomable absurdity", in his first reaction to the events of Monday night and Tuesday morning.
He said that the attack, together with Monday night's raid of an abandoned building along Israel's border with Jordan, were both severe events.
"These are violent disturbances," said Gantz. "The IDF that defends its people, found it had to defends itself against them. This is absurd beyond belief and I hope the perpetrators will be put to justice and I am convinced that the leaders and authorities will do everything necessary to achieve this."