IDF set for major settler showdown

Masked Jewish settlers clash with Palestinians in the West Bank

Masked Jewish settlers clash with Palestinians in the West Bank

Israel's security forces are preparing to dismantle one of the largest illegal settler outposts, Ramat Gilad, in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Jewish settlers are expected to attempt to physically prevent the evacuation in what is set to be a violent standoff with the IDF.

The settlers are divided over a compromise proposal whereby the houses currently built on private Palestinian land would be moved a short distance to government-administered land, with the mainstream YESHA Council leaders accepting the plan and outpost leaders against. Two buildings on a smaller outpost were dismantled last Thursday.

Following the assault on IDF officers by settlers last week and the continued "price tag" actions - from vandalism to attacks on Palestinians and IDF installations - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that security forces in the West Bank would be given authority to arrest violent settlers and put them on trial in military courts. They would also be allowed to use riot control equipment such as tear-gas which is normally only used against Palestinian protesters.

However, IDF officers claim: "We already have similar powers, but the only thing that can really deal with criminal acts by Israeli citizens is resolute action by the police and the courts".

Since most of the information on attacks carried out by Israelis in the West Bank is collected by the Shin Bet, it cannot be used as evidence in the courts.

"I don't know how to say to a young officer out in the field that he has to continue protecting settlers who are attacking him at the same time."

While most MKs denounced the attacks on IDF soldiers, Yaakov Katz (National Union) said: "The settlers serve in the IDF and are the best officers. The attackers are not settlers, just people trying to provoke the Shin Bet."

Last updated: 10:41am, December 28 2011