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Jewish Vigilantism Against Arabs Annoys Army, Divides Politicians

Police reported Monday that a group of Jewish settlers shot and wounded four Arabs in two West Bank villages to avenge a rock-throwing attack.

The incident is the latest indication of the recent escalation of settler reprisals against Arabs in the administered territories.

The settlers’ actions, and the resulting confrontations with the Israel Defense Force, are splitting the Cabinet and Knesset along party and ideological lines.

Gen. Dan Shomron, the IDF chief of staff, abandoned his usual composure at the Cabinet’s weekly session Sunday to tell the ministers that he was fed up with the behavior of the settlers.

He charged that their vigilante tactics have worsened the security situation in territories, and he asserted that the IDF needs no help from them to maintain order.

Shomron’s remarks followed a series of violent acts against Arabs in Hebron by residents of the adjacent township of Kiryat Arba.

Jewish settlers from the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim rampaged on two successive nights through Eizariya, an Arab suburb of Jerusalem, causing considerable property damage.

The incidents were triggered by rock-throwing assaults on Jewish vehicles. Settlers in northern Samaria also attempted reprisals on Arab villagers.

The chief of staff expressed his displeasure with the settlers in the face of powerful prosettler factions in the Cabinet and Knesset.

‘IT MAKES THE ARABS REJOICE’

Several ministers professed “understanding” for their unruly conduct.

Foreign Minister Moshe Arens of Likud said it was “unacceptable” that the settlers of Ma’aleh Adumim could not travel to Jerusalem without being stoned.

Health Minister Ya’acov Tsur of the Labor Party warned of the “Lebanonization” of the administered territories. “If the IDF finds itself daily separating Jews and Arabs, Israel will face disaster,” he warned.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said that there was no Justification whatsoever for any confrontation between settlers and the IDF.

“Jews and Jews should not fight each other, for it makes the Arabs rejoice,” Shamir told reporters Monday after a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“Have we gone mad?” he asked.

There was a clash Sunday between some members of the Knesset committee who were visiting Hebron and militant settlers there. Other committee members sided with the settlers and hurled invectives at their Knesset colleagues.

The verbal brawl arose when Yossi Sarid of the dovish Citizens Rights Movement objected to the fact that the committee members were briefed by Ze’ev Friedman, a convicted member of a Jewish terrorist underground who served time in prison for his role in the murder of Palestinians.

“A person who was involved in murder will not tell me about Hebron,” Sarid told Friedman, now a leader of the Jewish enclave in Hebron.

Geula Cohen of the right-wing party Tehiya turned on Sarid, shouting, “Go back to the PLO, you fifth columnist.”

Another settler leader, Rabbi Moshe Levinger of Hebron, who is under indictment for murdering an Arab, accused all of the Labor Party Knesset members of being “enemies of Israel.”

Pressure from Likud, which is sympathetic to the settlers, drew a promise from their leaders Sunday night to refrain from clashes with the army.

The settlers have long criticized the security forces for alleged lack of adequate protection and have demanded harsher measures to suppress the Palestinian uprising.

Senior IDF officers, for their part, have complained bitterly that the army is being diverted from its vital training and defense tasks to protect Jewish settlers in the territories.

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