IDF braces for West Bank violence during olive harvest

After clashes break out near Itamar between settlers and Palestinians at the start of the olive harvest, IDF increases presence in hotspots.

Settlers breaking olive tree branches R 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Settlers breaking olive tree branches R 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The IDF is gearing up for violence that it predicts will break out over the coming weeks between settlers and Palestinians with the beginning of the olive-harvest season in the West Bank.
The olive harvest started on Sunday with violent clashes that broke out between settlers and Palestinians near the settlement of Itamar. Defense officials said that settlers from Itamar and nearby settlements approached the fields and began clashing with the Palestinian farmers.
To prevent additional violence, the IDF and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria have increased their presence in hotspots, particularly near the Yitzhar settlement outside Nablus.
In recent weeks and ahead of the season, the civil administration mapped out the different “hot spots” in the West Bank, where violence between settlers and farmers was likely to erupt.
The civil administration has also scheduled times for farmers to harvest their olive orchards and deploy troops to serve as a buffer between the farmers and settlers. In addition, the civil administration is providing OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi with daily updates on the harvest’s progress.
“There is minimal violence during times that are coordinated ahead of time,” one officer explained on Tuesday.
“Problems begin when farmers begin harvesting without first coordinating with us and then we are not there.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that groups of settlers and right-wing activists which carry out so-called “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians were operating “almost like terrorist organizations.”
“These attacks are a disgrace for the State of Israel and I am glad that settlement leaders have denounced these actions,” Barak said during a tour of the Etzion Regional Brigade in the West Bank. “These are events that we need to fight against since they not only disgrace Israel but they also undermine the strength and legitimacy of the entire settlement movement.”
Referring to the Quartet’s initiative to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Barak said that the government was committed to renewing negotiations without preconditions.
“There is no guarantee that this will bear fruit, but we have a responsibility to exhaust every possibility so it will,” Barak said.