Settlers, cops still at odds over Amona

Meet for the first time since the violent confrontation almost 3 months ago.

amona riot gear 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
amona riot gear 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Settler leaders and police commanders met on Monday for the first time since the violence during the demolition of illegal homes at Amona in early February. Although both sides parted ways trumpeting the importance of maintaining communication, Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) spokeswoman Emily Amrussi said that the settler leadership was not entirely satisfied with the meeting's outcome. Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi opened the meeting, saying that the violence at Amona remained a painful scar for both settlers and police, who blame each other for the escalation that led to approximately 250 people being hospitalized. He cited the lack of communication between police and settler leaders prior to the evacuation as a major factor, in contrast with the consistent discourse between settler leaders and police prior to last summer's largely peaceful evacuation of Gaza settlements.
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Karadi added that, in the future, police would demand to participate alongside IDF commanders in the talks with settler leaders prior to difficult evacuations. At Amona, such talks had been confined to IDF and settler leaders. The Monday meeting was attended by Judea and Samaria police chief Cmdr. Yisrael Yitzhak, head of police operations Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, and Yesha leaders Bentzi Lieberman, Avner Shimoni, Ze'ev Hever, and heads of West Bank regional councils. Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein said that "two sides of Israeli society had arrived at Amona still bleeding" from the trauma of the evacuation of Gush Katif, and that since the summer, settler leaders were having difficulty with the settler youth, who had become more violent toward figures they see as representing the establishment. Wallerstein suggested that settler leadership would have an easier time talking to youth if they could see that police officers accused of violent acts during the evacuation had been investigated and punished. The Yesha leadership repeated the demand for greater police accountability, saying that police violence was the worst of the trauma resulting from Amona. They described the police tactics at Amona as the force's most violent action against Israeli civilians since police fired into a crowd of Arab protesters at Wadi Ara in 2000. They said that it was particularly alarming since the perpetrators were uniformed representatives of the state. Yesha leaders demanded an effective investigation into the events at the hilltop outpost. They said that they were not confident that the Police Investigative Department would conduct an honest investigation, and called on Karadi to head the probe into the incident. According to Amrussi, Karadi responded that it was important for individual police officers to feel confident that they would have the full weight of support behind them, and reiterated his previous position that individual police officers could be confident of his support. The sides concluded the meeting with intentions to continue the dialogue, including meetings with youth, educators and police, and that each side would review its role in the incident. Amassi said that, while she was disappointed that Karadi did not agree to meet any of the Yesha leadership's requests, the very fact that the dialogue between police and Yesha leadership had been renewed was, in itself, a significant development. "In all conversation there is a lot of good, especially in such an emotionally charged environment," she said. While tension was high at the beginning of the meeting, she added, it declined slightly as subjects such as crime, checkpoints and other more routine concerns were discussed.