Analysis: A conundrum for the government

A clash with Obama or a clash with settlers.

By
July 27, 2010 04:17
2 minute read.
Settlers rebuild the Migron illegal outpost in the

Migron settler kid 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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The violence in northern Samaria on Monday was a taste of what might come after September 26.

That’s the date when the government-imposed freeze on settlement construction will expire, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will have to decide whether to extend it, and, if so, under what format – complete or partial.

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Based on recent interviews given by several key ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, a likely scenario is that the freeze will continue in places that Israel does not intent to retain in a future peace deal with the Palestinians, but will be lifted in the settlement blocs slated to become part of Israel.

The settlers behind the spate of violence on Monday had multiple objectives. First, they wanted to try and prevent the IDF and its Civil Administration from demolishing structures like those in the illegal outpost of Givat Ronen in northern Samaria. Second, they were seeking to send a message aimed at deterring the government from daring to extend the freeze. The potential fallout from settler attacks against Palestinians could, based on the growing violence, end up causing Israel far more diplomatic damage then a decision not to extend the freeze.

The arrests of alleged Jewish terrorists Haim Pearlman and Jack Teitel in the past year, as well as a clear escalation in anti-Palestinian attacks, also demonstrate the potential for more violence within the Jewish right-wing community. According to Shin Bet assessments, there are a handful of settlers and right-wing activists who would be willing to target and kill Palestinians. In addition, there are believed to be several dozen and possibly hundreds who would be willing to throw stones at Palestinians or puncture the tires of IDF and Israel Police jeeps.

There is also, in the army’s view, a clear link between settler violence and Palestinian terrorism. A few months ago, a settler whose car was stoned near the West Bank village of Sinjil shot and killed the Palestinian who threw the rock. A few hours later, Palestinians opened fire on an Israeli car traveling on the same road.

“We need to be prepared for the possibility that violence will significantly escalate in the event that the freeze is extended,” a top IDF officer said on Monday.

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As a result, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will have to seriously consider their options ahead of September 26, and decide which is worse – lifting the freeze and clashing with President Barack Obama, or extending the freeze and clashing with the settlers.

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