Settler leaders prepare for fresh fight

By Nathan Jeffay, June 21, 2012

With just over a week to go until the Israeli government is committed to evacuate 30 Jewish homes in the West Bank, some rabbis and settler leaders are preparing a bitter fight to prevent the operation.

In the settlement of Beit El, five blocks of flats are built on land that is privately owned by Palestinians, and the government has promised to evacuate them by Sunday week.

The town’s rabbi, Zalman Baruch Melamed, has issued a public letter calling for a “decisive struggle with dedication and sacrifice”.

Rabbi Melamed, who is influential nationally, wrote that in his understanding of religious-Zionism, every Jew is obliged to “stand with complete and utter self-sacrifice” against leaving any part of the biblical land of Israel.

While Rabbi Melamed’s letter does not offer a practical plan, an anonymously written pamphlet circulating in settlements does. The Practical Plan to Save the Outposts and Hills in the Land of Israel gives home addresses of senior army officials for demonstrations, and suggests blocking roads, riling Palestinians in Arab villages, and infiltrating army bases to destabilise the West Bank.

Radical settler ideologue Daniella Weiss said that settler representatives should cut all connections with government, and ensure that “tens of thousands” of protesters are in Beit El when the evacuation starts. “I think there will be resistance of course — people don’t just come to play,” she said.

Another hard-line ideologue, Shalom Dov Wolpe, a Chabad messianist rabbi, said that protesters “should stop it any legal way they can” but, asked about violence said: “Some would say it’s violence, others would say it’s lifesaving.”

But some important figures are calling for moderation. The settler umbrella organisation the Yesha Council is co-operating with the government, and last week Haim Druckman, head of Bnei Akiva’s network of yeshivot, commended Yesha’s leader, Danny Dayan, in a letter.

Yuval Sherlow, head of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva, has written to youth leaders saying: “ “Words can cause people to kill. You cannot use a concept like ‘stopping the evacuation at any price as a matter of life and death’ and not expect that no violence will occur.”

l A mosque in the Palestinian village of Jaba, near Ramallah, was set alight and vandalised in a suspected “price tag” attack by settlers on Tuesday.

Last updated: 3:35pm, June 21 2012