Settler council claims film clip shows Palestinians cut their own olive trees

In an attempt to clear the name of West Bank settlers blamed for the destruction of Palestinian olive trees, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza on Tuesday released film footage to several local TV stations, including Channel 10, which ran a clip of Palestinian farmers pruning their own trees near Yitzhar. The settlers claimed that the film footage was proof that in many cases the Israeli security authorities were quick to blame the settlers without investigating the situation thoroughly. What the council failed to state was that the footage had been filmed by a security head of one of the settlements in the region two years ago. A statement issued by the council accused the Palestinian farmers of waging a political campaign against the settlers in order to receive compensation from the Israeli government. Samaria Regional Council spokeswoman Ahuva Shilo described as "sheer provocation" recent media headlines blaming the settlers. While admitting that there had been a number of incidents in which Jewish assailants were believed to have been responsible for destroying the trees, Shilo insisted that the acts of vandalism were sporadic and the work of "hotheads. "The council has demanded from the authorities that they seek out the culprits and punish them," she said. Shilo hinted that there appeared to have been an increase in incidents ever since Israel announced its willingness to compensate the Palestinian farmers. She added that council members had been informed by the Olive Tree Growers Association that once every two years olive trees have to be heavily pruned back to their trunk in order to encourage a better olive harvest the following year.