Barak calls for crackdown on settler violence

Barak calls recent W. Bank incidents "unacceptable," orders establishment of monitoring team.

October 29, 2008 15:32
2 minute read.
Barak calls for crackdown on settler violence

masked topless settler soldiers 224 88. (photo credit: AP)


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Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday ordered a crackdown on far-right activists in the West Bank and approved a range of sweeping policy changes, among them an increase in restraining orders. The move came after a number of physical attacks by extremists against security forces in the West Bank, as well as violent threats, including one this week wishing death to IDF soldiers who evacuate illegal Jewish homes in the territories. There has also been an increase in attacks on Palestinians during this year's olive harvest. This concerted effort by far-right extremists to undermine Israeli authority in the West Bank much be checked, Barak told a special gathering of top defense establishment officials at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. "The attempt to crack the authority of the state and its representatives in the field, the IDF and the police, in Judea and Samaria is a serious development, and it is up to the state's arms - the security forces, law enforcement agencies and judicial system - to respond to this unacceptable phenomenon and to eradicate it," Barak said. The changes Barak asked for include the increased use of administrative decrees against lawbreakers, and the establishment of a monitoring team that coordinate among various law-enforcement bodies. Wednesday's meeting was attended by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Head Yuval Diskin, and Police Insp.-Gen. Dudi Cohen. Also present were Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni. The Defense Ministry added that further discussions are expected soon on legislation that would help restore order to the West Bank. Right-wing activists had already been complaining about a restraining order issued against four activists that has forced them to relocate their families from the West Bank, where they lived. The right-wing group Women in Green said that decision moved Israel one step further toward becoming a police state. They urged the public to issue its own form of "restraining order" against Barak during the coming elections, by voting that he be sent as far away as possible from the government. The Legal Forum for Israel said that injunctions against right-wingers are based on rumors and "secret evidence" that do not allow the individuals to defend themselves. It threatened to turn to the High Court of Justice on behalf of anyone who was given these injunctions. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said he was certain that neither the police nor the security services would allow themselves to be used to further Barak's political agenda. "Barak is seeking a headline and violence to combat his poor standing in the polls," Ariel said. Two years ago, he said, the Knesset passed legislation to prevent the abuse of these injunctions. He added that he'd written a letter to Barak on Tuesday asking why similar steps are not being taken against left-wing extremists in the territories. Even the Left was unhappy with Barak's comments. Yesh Din, which has long urged the security forces, particularly the police, to do more to enforce the law in the West Bank, said that in these measures Barak had gone too far. Restraining orders are undemocratic and go against basic human rights, the group said. "The defense minister is seeking a short cut. He is looking for a publicity move that would show that he is doing something," the group said. All that is needed is for the security forces to fight extremists the old-fashion way, by collecting evidence, arresting suspects and bringing them to justice, Yesh Din said.

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