July 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
A senior Israeli army commander has warned that Jewish terrorism against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank could push the whole country into another conflict.
Major General Avi Mizrahi attacked extremist Israeli settlers, and said the yeshiva, (a religious seminary) in Yitzhar should be closed, because as one of the most radical Jewish organizations in the West Bank, it was a source of terror against Palestinians.
The general’s comments are going to be unpopular with Israel’s pro-settler government, which has resisted efforts to stop settlement expansion as a step toward reviving stalled peace talks. The foreign minister himself lives in a West Bank settlement. All of the Israeli settlements are regarded as illegal under international law.
There has been an upsurge in violence by hardline settlers, who in recent months have set fire to a West Bank mosque, burned Palestinian olive groves, and vandalised Palestinian property. And settlers have killed three Palestinians this year.
“What’s happening in the West Bank is terrorism,” General Mizrahi said. The Israel Defence Force fears that terrorism against Palestinians is likely to provoke counter-attacks and turn the whole area into another fruitless battlefield.
Palestinians and Israeli NGOs frequently accuse the army of siding with settlers in conflicts with Palestinians, but the army says that it is obliged to protect its citizens and does not set policy.
The number of violent incidents has spiked in recent months, partly because of the murder earlier this year of five members of a Jewish family in Itamar, a settlement near Nablus. Two Palestinians were charged with the crime.
Human rights groups suggest that the more radical settlers, many of whom oppose a two-state solution on the basis that the whole of Israel is bequeathed to them by God, are pushing back against Palestinian attempts to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.
“The army is very afraid that [action by settlers] at a critical moment could set off a Third Intifada,” said Adam Keller, spokesman for Israeli human rights body Gush Shalom.
“The fact that the army is not doing much to hinder them is making the settlers more aggressive,” he said
General Mizrahi blamed the courts for failing to rein in the most radical of the settlers.