JERUSALEM (May. 9)
Israeli authorities and dovish politicians have expressed growing concern that Jewish settlers in the administered territories and on the Golan Heights have begun to horde firearms, in preparation for armed resistance to a future diplomatic settlement requiring their evacuation.
The issue came up at the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, during which the ministers discussed the atmosphere among settlers in the territories, who are becoming increasingly concerned about concessions Israel may make in the peace negotiations with the Arab states and Palestinians.
The ministers were told that the Shin Bet domestic security service is keeping “a close watch” over “troublemakers” among the settlers.
Commerce and Industry Minister Micha Harish said the Cabinet was in agreement that the authorities should spare no effort to thwart any “attempt to disrupt the democratic process.”
Harish referred to a recent television report that included interviews with settlers who said they would resist their evacuation by force. The report depicted armed settlers patrolling Arab villages in militia-style operations.
Harish quoted Benny Katzover, who heads the Samaria regional council in the West Bank, as saying that settlers would disrupt the Knesset’s work by lying on roads leading to the legislature.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal said he had discussed the issue with Attorney General Yosef Harish.
PREVENTING A ‘MONSTER’
Knesset member Dedi Zucker of the left-wing Meretz bloc, who chairs the Knesset Law Committee, said he would invite the attorney general, as well as the advocate general and representatives of the security forces, to testify on how to prevent the “development of a monster which is a menace to the democratic regime.”
Another Meretz Knesset member, Deputy Housing Minister Ran Cohen, demanded that the authorities “detain all those involved in erecting an army of political hooligans.”
He called for an investigation into why the intelligence forces had not prevented the development of armed Jewish patrols.
But right-wing politicians played down the issue, saying that the settlers who said they would resist any political settlement calling for territorial compromise were a “loud minority.”
Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Gur also minimized the phenomenon, saying that by and large, the Jewish population in the territories had shown maturity and used their arms for personal protection only.
He pledged the authorities would guarantee the safety of the settlers, “as long as they are there — and they are there.”
Gur was asked about the army’s decision to confiscate the personal rifle of Gershon Messika, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, who reportedly was identified as one of the settlers who took part in the armed patrols of Arab villages.
Gur said that although the army had confiscated a number of arms from settlers who were active in such militias, the government had no plans to disarm settlers in general.