Peres meets settler leaders, expresses outrage over extremists' violence against IDF, Palestinians.
By GREER FAY CASHMANAdding fuel to the fire when the Middle East is burning endangers the whole country, President Shimon Peres warned at the conclusion of a meeting with settler leaders from Judea and Samaria on Thursday.Peres was referring to the torching of mosques, the stoning of Palestinian cars and vandalizing of Palestinian property, as well as physical attacks against innocent Palestinians by extremist. The conversation dwelt on the crossing of red lines, with civilians infiltrating an army base and engaging in violence, including stone throwing against soldiers.RELATED:PA: Mosque attack is declaration of warAnalysis: Time to create deterrence“For God’s sake, an officer was almost killed!” exclaimed Peres.Members of the delegation were concerned that the settlers of Judea and Samaria were being tarred by the brush of a renegade element.Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan said that 99 percent of all settlers were opposed to such acts of violence and saw no justification for attacking soldiers or civilians, be they Arab or Jew.Those who break the law must be dealt with accordingly, he said.AdvertisementDayan noted that members of the delegation were soldiers in the IDF reserves and that any one of them, had he been on duty, could have been attacked and hit by a stone.Rabbi Eli Sadan of the Bnei David military preparatory course described the meeting as “important” and said that despite their differences, members of the delegation and Peres were in full agreement that the most vital strategy for Israel was internal unity and a dialogue based on mutual respect.Under no circumstances should there be an eruption of violence and hatred, he said.Emphasizing, as Peres did later, that the IDF is the army of the people, Sadan noted that students from the preparatory course (who are by and large religiously observant) serve in all units of the IDF.There was consensus among all participants in the discussion that the IDF should be absolutely free of politics.Sadan was also pleased to note that in the course of the discussion, Peres had expressed full confidence and trust in the loyalty of religiously observant soldiers.Even after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, said Sadan, Peres distinguished between those who were guilty of incitement and the rest of the law-abiding settlement movement.Sadan attributed part of the problem to the fact that the Civil Administration was still dragging its feet on determining where new settlements could be built. As a result, young people were establishing what are considered to be illegal settlements that are subsequently demolished by the army, thus creating bad blood between the young settlers and the IDF.Noting that nearly all those present at the meeting were educators, Sadan said that it was important to remember that the State of Israel was established by all streams of the population, and that these varied sectors must continue to work together in mutual respect, regardless of their differences.Dayan said he detected an odor of extremism from the other side of the political spectrum, with increasing demonization and delegitimization of the settler movement.“Only President Peres can stem this demonization,” he asserted. “If it continues, the violence will escalate.”This was not the first time Peres, one of the architects of Israel’s defense establishment, has spoken out against assaults on the IDF. To him, it is anathema that any Israeli would raise a hand against a soldier, and when such incidents occur he gets very angry.“The IDF is the army of the people with or without kippot,” he said. “We are proud of the army and owe its soldiers a great debt for risking their lives on a daily basis in order to guarantee our safety.”Those who attack the army and who are attacking Palestinians and harming Palestinian property are giving Arabs and Muslims an excuse to attack Israel, said Peres, insisting that such behavior be stopped immediately.
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