JERUSALEM (Oct. 31)
Tension and violence in the administered territories has escalated in the wake of the murder of a Jewish settler who was kidnapped by gunmen of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.
The Jewish settler, Chaim Mizrachi, was murdered after being kidnapped last Friday at a Palestinian chicken farm in the West Bank, where he apparently went to buy eggs.
His charred body was found the next day inside the trunk of his car, which had also been burned. Mizrachi was buried Sunday as the search continued for his murderers.
Settlers proclaimed the start of a Jewish rebellion when Mizrachi’s body was discovered.
On Saturday night, Israeli settlers blocked roads in the West Bank with burning tires. They set fire to fields, stoned Arab cars and smashed them with clubs.
Several Israelis were arrested and released after posting bail.
On Sunday morning, an Israeli shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian at the Erez military checkpoint at the entrance to the Gaza Strip. The shooting occurred after the Palestinian stabbed him during an argument over money.
In another incident, a Palestinian real estate dealer, Ahmed Oudeh, was murdered by Arab terrorists on Saturday outside a shop in the West Bank town of Kalkilya, where he was making arrangements for his daughter’s wedding that night.
No one claimed responsibility for the killing, but sources said Oudeh was considered a collaborator with the Israeli government because he sold land on behalf of Arab landowners to Jewish settlements.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal said after the Mizrachi killing that the peace talks with the Palestinians would not get in the way of the efforts of the Israeli security forces to combat terrorism.
RABIN REMARK CRITICIZED
But Jewish settlers say they are angry and frustrated by what they believe is the failure of the government to protect them.
They also fear the current series of Palestinian prisoner releases is giving the terrorists a “green light” to continue attacks against them.
Last week, Israel released more than 600 prisoners in an effort to build support among Palestinians for the self-rule accord Israel signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization on Sept. 13 in Washington.
One group of settlers got a permit to erect tents where Mizrachi’s body had been found, and they devoted themselves to Talmud study in his memory.
Hundreds of others held noisy demonstrations outside the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem homes of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to protest remarks he made over the weekend that appeared to equate Palestinian and Jewish violence.
Rabin had said that Palestinian opponents of the peace process murdered Mizrachi solely because he was a Jew, while Jewish opponents of the peace process stoned Arab cars simply because they were owned by Arabs.
According to Rabin, both groups were trying to sabotage the agreement with the PLO.
The settlers were not alone in their protest against Rabin’s remarks.
His comments sparked outrage all across the political spectrum and also within the Cabinet, which was briefed Sunday by Rabin on Mizrachi’s murder.
Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein said there is “no comparison” between the Hamas murders and the “acts of demonstration, albeit sometimes violent demonstrations, undertaken by the settlers.”
Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu termed the comments a scandal and called on Rabin to resign if he cannot protect Jewish lives. But Netanyahu also urged restraint by the settlers.
Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini condemned the murder of Mizrachi.
“Every killing of a Palestinian or Israeli is sad, and we hope this will stop,” he was reported to have said.
President Ezer Weizman said he could understand the feelings of the settlers, though he disagreed with their behavior.
“I hope that in time, things will calm,” he said.
Weizman made the comment on a visit to Jordan Valley residents to advise them to carry on with their lives, undaunted by the changes that might come as a result of the recently signed accord with the PLO.
The residents told him they felt their status was insecure and that they have been abandoned by the government.