JERUSALEM (Feb. 13)
Two Knesset members have charged that paramilitary organizations of Jewish settlers are carrying out systematic reprisals against Palestinians in the West Bank, and are prepared if necessary to confront the Israel Defense Force.
Settler leaders promptly branded the charges “nonsense.”
The allegations were made by Yossi Sarid and Dedi Zucker, Knesset members of the dovish Citizens Rights Movement, in a memorandum to Attorney General Yosef Harish that became public Monday.
They urged Harish to take measures to dissolve the militias before “the situation in the territories deteriorates into an all-out war.”
Sarid and Zucker mentioned several recent reprisal attacks on Arab villagers, which they said were planned and executed by the paramilitary organization.
Sarid and Zucker claimed settler militias were operating throughout the West Bank in military formations such as companies, taking actions that were normally the role of a state or army.
The militias share missions, coordinate their activities and possess “a versatile arsenal of weapons, vehicles, a developed communications system and alarm system.
“Most of the equipment belongs to the army,” the two Knesset members said.
On a Voice of Israel Radio interview, they named some of the alleged militia leaders, including Benny Katzover, chairman of the Samaria Regional Council, and Ron Nahman, mayor of Ariel.
Both accused the Knesset members of trying to besmirch Jewish settlers for political reasons.
Sarid earned credibility with both the public and the authorities since the early 1980s, when he warned that a Jewish underground was active in the West Bank terrorizing Arabs and committing acts of violence.
Sarid and Zucker charge now that militias are under orders from the Council of Jewish Settlements in the Territories.
Nahman said all of the allegations were lies. “We have a department of security” in Ariel, he said, but not a militia.
Katzover conceded that Jews sometimes “burst out” in response to Palestinian violence. “But the answer is to put an end to the Arab riots and there will be no reaction by Jews,” he said.