Could the violence have been avoided?

Could the unprecedented level of violence that erupted between settlers and police and border policemen charged with evacuating the thousands in Amona been avoided? Had the security establishment set up roadblocks on the main access routes to the outpost and deployed IDF units to man positions in the nearby wadis and hilltops and prevent the thousands of supporters from streaming to the site, the violence could well have been averted, or at least limited to isolated pockets of resistance. Already last week, settlers began coming to the site, their numbers swelled this week and the security establishment did nothing to stop them. The worst-case scenarios drawn up by the security establishment prior to the disengagement from Gush Katif were never realized. There were heart-wrenching scenes and emotions ran high, but the evacuation passed quietly. Prior to disengagement, the main checkpoints into Gush Katif were shut down, and settlements were cordoned off to prevent protesters from reaching them. Amona is an isolated hilltop that could have easily been surrounded and cut off prior to the evacuation. The IDF, which is responsible for the area, should have set up checkpoints at the beginning of the week and and prevented the protesters from reaching Amona. The thousands of security personnel sent there far exceeded the ratio of security forces to protesters in the evacuation of Gush Katif, and the violence was met in some cases with excessive force. Senior IDF officers declared, however, that nothing could have prevented the violence, as the settlers had taken a clear-cut decision to resist harshly. The strategy of Central Command was to disturb as little as possible the routine life of the thousands of settlers living in the Ofra region. "The main road serves thousands of settlers living in the region, and the decision not to set up checkpoints earlier was measured against the disturbances they would be forced to endure had such measures been taken," one officer said. Settler leaders and MKs present throughout the forced evacuation failed in their mission to set examples for teenagers, many still hurting from the evacuation of Gush Katif. They had no control over the hundreds who barricaded themselves on the rooftops, and they failed to prevent the ugly scenes of Jews raising their hands against Jews from being broadcast around the world. Earlier in the week, thousands of police, border policemen and soldiers underwent intensive preparations for the evacuation and the subsequent demolition of the nine illegal homes. Without a doubt, had they not been carefully trained and prepared for the mission, the casualties could have been far higher. No one was prepared for the fierce violence that erupted, or for the images of Jewish youths, some wearing masks, throwing barrages of stones, rocks, blocks, paint and other substances at policemen attempting to evacuate them. The police and border policemen who actively participated in the evacuation responded determinedly and fiercely to the unprecedented violence. For the first time, policemen wielding batons fought through the crowds of Jewish protesters, beating them back, and mounted police directed their horses through the crowds in an attempt to disperse them. While the security establishment deemed the evacuation a success, no one was prepared for the serious injuries a border policeman and Jewish youth incurred. "It is hard to fathom; their lives will never be the same," said one IDF officer. "When the decision was made by the settlers to resort to violence, no matter the numbers of people involved, it has to be dealt with quickly," another officer said. "The mission was carried out, the nine buildings will be demolished, but the price that was paid is something that will have to be reckoned with, by society and the entire security establishment."