JERUSALEM (May. 31)
President Chaim Herzog expressed his strongest-ever condemnation of the vigilante tactics used by Jewish settlers in the West Bank here Wednesday, warning that “no one is above the law.”
He spoke at the awards ceremony of the Jerusalem Prize for Torah Education in the Diaspora, held at the presidential residence.
Herzog was clearly angered, not only by the violent acts of the settlers against the Palestinian population in the administered territories but their frequent confrontations with the Israel Defense Force.
Noting that Jerusalem Day, the 22nd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, falls on Thursday, the president observed that the same army which liberated the city in 1967 has been verbally and physically assaulted by “hot-headed and inciteful Jews.”
The soldiers who liberated the Western Wall 22 years ago represented diverse opinions among the Israeli people, some of which might be considered “extreme and traitorous” today, Herzog said.
He warned that isolated cases of violating the law could become the norm. “No one is above the law. No one has the right to decide which laws he will observe and which he will ignore,” the president said.
In Washington on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department sounded a similar note.
“We condemn the vigilante attacks,” Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher said, adding, “We note the Israeli government’s views that there could be ‘no justification for people taking the law into their own hands.’
“We certainly agree with that,” Boucher said. “We urge all sides to refrain from actions that contribute to raising the level of violence and hinder efforts to establish a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.”
At Wednesday’s awards ceremony, Herzog stressed that Jerusalem Day was a good occasion not only to strengthen the unity of the people but to warn against divisiveness and the threat of Jews raising their hands against their own kind.
Herzog’s warning was echoed by former IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan, now leader of the extreme right-wing Tsomet party.
While Eitan said he understood their motivations and sympathized with the settlers, they had no right to take the law into their own hands.
The list of distinguished recipients of the Jerusalem Prize for Torah Education was headed by Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, whose illness prevented him from attending.
Another recipient unable to accept his award in person was Dr. Ze’ev Dashevsky, a long-time refusenik still waiting for an exit visa.
He and fellow refusenik, Yuli Kosharovsky, were cited for their promotion of Jewish education in the Soviet Union. Kosharovsky recently immigrated to Israel.