Settlers turn against their state

By Ben Lynfield, October 30, 2008

The Intensifying enmity of far-right settlers towards the state erupted into violence this week after soldiers destroyed two illegal structures in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.

In response, settlers vandalised Palestinian cars, desecrated a Muslim graveyard and gave incendiary radio interviews. Shmuel Ben-Ishai, a Hebron settler, told Army Radio: "We hope they [the soldiers] will be smitten by their enemies, that all of them will be like Gilad Shalit [the soldier held by Hamas] and that they will all be slaughtered."

But the far-right is fuming not just against the state and the army. Their anger is also focused increasingly on the mainstream leadership of the 275,000 settlers in the West Bank.

A hillside near the Palestinian town of Halhoul has become one of the fronts in a brewing rebellion by young settlers against the leadership.

Dozens of activists, in a show of fervent opposition to what they see as sell-out policies by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha), established an outpost here during Succot. Although evicted by the army, they have kept returning and are now vowing to return to establish a permanent settlement, Maalot Halhoul, and to take over other hilltops throughout the West Bank.

The young radicals' anger has been simmering for three years, ever since the mainstream leadership, in their view, essentially acquiesced to the Gaza disengagement.

"Who gave them the right to say the nation of Israel concedes any part of the Land of Israel? Just as Olmert has no right to do this, they have no right to do this," said Zavia Davis from Kiryat Arba, describing the mainstream leadership as "traitors. Traitors to the mission, to the objective they were supposed to represent."

Her husband Aryeh added: "The council is serving the interests of the government, while the plan that we offer is to settle all of Judea and Samaria. Every place."

Activists established short-lived outposts at two other West Bank locales during Succot, attempts carried out under the heading of two groups established since the Gaza withdrawal, Youth for the Land of Israel and Faithful of the Land of Israel.

The Davis's said these were not membership organisations and declined to estimate how many activists they had, but that hundreds and sometimes several thousand people come to their activities.

They look to Daniella Weiss, the veteran settler leader and former mayor of Kedumim, as their mentor.

The young radicals dismiss talk of a settler underground as part of a smear campaign stoked by the government. But Mr Davis, who as a soldier was imprisoned for refusing to evacuate Gaza settlers, said he saw the council's agreement in August to a government deal to move the illegal Migron outpost as a historic crossroads.

The government "knows that if it can succeed in vacating Migron it will move forward and evacuate all of Judea and Samaria. For this they need collaboration from the victim."

Yishai Hollander, a spokesman for the Yesha Council, declined to comment on the criticisms against it.

Last updated: 1:20pm, October 30 2008