Analysis: Caught out as they made their french fries

Burned once by Barak, settlers will not likely trust him again.

Barak 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
It was expected to be violent - worse than the demolition of nine homes at the illegal outpost of Amona in 2006. Ministers, settler leaders, even right-wing politicians warned of the blood that would be spilled. Some reports claimed that the evacuation would take place in the middle of the night, as it did at the Federman farm near Hebron a month and a half ago. But everyone was in for a surprise. There were no horses or water hoses like at Amona. At the disputed building on the outskirts of Hebron, the evacuation took place in the middle of the day - starting at 2:30 and ending just under and hour later. The violence was minimal, which allowed border policemen to take control of the rooftop immediately and then, after a short sweep through the building, lock it down. The settlers were taken by surprise. Walking through the various apartments afterwards, you could see that. In one, someone had been making French fries. The pan, filled with sliced potatoes, was still on the stove top. In another, residents must have just been sitting down to eat when the evacuation started. Three place settings were on the table, alongside a plate of cucumbers and chicken. That's not to say there were no preparations for fierce resistance. There were. During a tour of the building after its evacuation, police showed reporters a balcony overlooking the main road below which could best be described as an "ammunition depot." There were dozens of bottles of different chemicals - turpentine, ammonia and others. There were light bulbs filled with paint and, most disturbing, about 30 potatoes into which someone had stuck sharp nails. One could only imagine what would have happened if one of those potatoes had hit a policeman in the face. The decision to evacuate the home Thursday afternoon was made by the commander of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Noam Tibon. It was approved by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. The ultimate green light, though, was given by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who even before his meeting with the settler leaders Thursday morning had already told the IDF to take the opportunity if it arose. Barak, a former commander of the IDF's elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), is known for his keen tactical sense. Immediately after the evacuation, settler leaders accused him of tricking them into believing he was sincere about a dialogue when he never really was. "Everything was a show to begin with," said Malahi Levinger, the newly-elected head of the Hebron-Kiryat Arba Regional Council. "He wasn't sincere." While defense officials said they had expected violent fallout after the evacuation, they admitted Thursday night to being slightly surprised by the high level of violence in Hebron. Fears in the defense establishment are that it will spread across the West Bank. While there were a number of attacks against Palestinians and Arabs ahead of the disengagement from Gaza, today's extremist youth are far more extreme than in 2005, the officials say, making not just an evacuation, but also its aftermath, more difficult. While Barak's ploy worked in Hebron on Thursday, indeed, it may cost him in the long term. When the next crisis rolls around - and it will - the settler leadership will likely not trust him and won't want to cooperate. Deals for cooperation in the removal of illegal outposts, long in discussion, may no longer be relevant.