Israel's security chiefs say settler violence is terror as US demands action

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet director Ronen Bar and Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai all issued a joint statement against settler violence.

 MAJ.-GEN. Herzi Halevi, the IDF chief of staff, speaks to troops along the Gaza border. (photo credit: IDF)
MAJ.-GEN. Herzi Halevi, the IDF chief of staff, speaks to troops along the Gaza border.
(photo credit: IDF)

Settler violence runs counter to every Jewish value and is an act of national terrorism, the heads of the IDF, Shin Bet and Police said in a sternly worded statement on Saturday as US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi to demand accountability.

“These attacks are against every moral and Jewish value and are also nationalist terrorism in every sense, and we are obliged to fight them,” said IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi, Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai.

They spoke out after a series of settler attacks against Palestinian villages in the West Bank sparked by a terror attack in which a Palestinian gunman killed four Israelis at a gas station outside of the Eli settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.

On Saturday, settlers torched homes and cars in the Palestinian village Umm Safa near Ramallah. The IDF said one Israeli suspect had been arrested and that its forces used anti-riot measures to break up violent clashes between the settlers and the Palestinians. One IDF soldier was hit by a stone and lightly injured.

Among the most serious attacks, this week was against the village of Turmas Aya, in which settlers fired guns on the streets and torched homes and vehicles. A Palestinian man was killed attempting to help wounded Palestinians.

 DEFENSE MINISTER Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visit near the border with Lebanon, earlier this month (credit: David Cohen/Flash90)
DEFENSE MINISTER Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visit near the border with Lebanon, earlier this month (credit: David Cohen/Flash90)

IDF, Shin Bet and police chief jointly condemn settler violence

In their statement, Halevi, Bar and Shabtai said that such settler attacks increase Palestinian violence as well as harm Israel’s global standing and the international legitimacy of the security forces to combat Palestinian terrorism.

It also diverts the attention of the "security forces from their main mission against Palestinian terrorism.”

Israel’s security forces are “committed to continuing to act with determination and with all the means at our disposal to maintain security and law in Judea and Samaria,” the three men stated.

They pledged to prevent such attacks by increasing their forces in the field and arresting perpetrators.

"We also call on the leaders in the settlements, educators and public leaders, to publicly denounce these acts of violence, and to join the fight against them,” they added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he “strongly condemned the violence perpetrated against residents of the village of Umm Safa, including the burning of houses and vehicles. This is not our way of life.

“IDF troops have my full backing in their work to thwart terrorism and defend the residents of Judea and Samaria. They are working with great determination and perseverance. I have given a clear directive to our troops to maintain order and stability, and to prevent acts of violence perpetrated by civilians in the area.”

US officials voice concern over lack of response to settler violence

Earlier this week, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel spoke out against the rampages this week by settlers against Palestinians. 

On Saturday, Sullivan called Hanegbi and "expressed deep concern over the recent extremist settler attacks against Palestinian civilians and the destruction of their property in the West Bank,” according to the White House.  

“He reiterated the importance of holding accountable those responsible for such acts of violence,” the White House stated.

Sullivan also “encouraged additional steps to restore calm and de-escalate tensions, and called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions, including settlement activity, that further inflame tensions.”

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said his bloc of 27 countries was “deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, leading to appalling numbers of Palestinian and Israeli victims.”

He said he “equally” condemned both the attack outside Eli that killed four Israelis and the attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

“The EU recalls that Israel has the obligation to ensure the protection of civilians in the occupied territory,” Borrell said. He also condemned Israel’s intention to convene the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria this week to advance plans for 4,560 settler homes as well as to begin to plan for 1,000 new homes in the settlement of Eli. 

“We urge Israel not to proceed with these measures,” he said.

EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff led a solidarity delegation of close to 20 diplomates to the Turmas Aya on Friday to protest the violence.

German Ambassador in Israel Steffen Seibert tweeted that "recent terror attacks cannot serve as an excuse" for settler violence.

"It is Israel's responsibility to safeguard life and security of all inhabitants of the occupied territories," Seibert wrote on Twitter.