JERUSALEM (Dec. 16)
Jewish settlers reacted angrily this week to army orders saying Israeli soldiers have the right to arrest settlers who commit acts of violence.
The orders, contained in a 14-page pamphlet issued by the Israel Defense Force this week, set ground rules for soldiers when dealing with settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip whose protests against the Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization accord breach the law.
In addition to granting the power of making military arrests, the orders allow the army to impose curfews on settlements.
Spokesmen for the settlers have complained that the pamphlet is yet another example of how the government is working hand-in-hand with the PLO to harm the settlers.
“This sort of thing is psychological warfare by the government,” said settler spokesman Shai Bazak.
Zvi Katzover, the leader of the local council of Kiryat Arba, a settlement near Hebron, said the army “should not even dream” of arresting protesters.
Last week, settlers killed three Palestinians near Hebron in retaliation for the murder by militant Palestinians of an Israeli father and son.
The pamphlet was drawn up by the IDF judge advocate general in consultation with the attorney general and police force.
It was issued in the wake of public criticism that the army has not done enough to quell the illegal acts of settlers.
Members of Likud joined settlers groups in calling the instructions illegal, saying soldiers had no right to take on the role of policemen.
Mili tary and legal experts point out that there is nothing new in the instructions, which merely compile and clarify existing orders.
Curfews, they point out, have never been imposed on Jewish settlements, and may never be.
Legal affairs analyst Moshe Negbi told Israel Radio that the instructions are legal. The army has always had the power of arrest under military law in the territories, but these powers have so far only been applied to Palestinians, he said.
Negbi said he was not surprised at the settlers’ response because “they got used to the situation in which the military laws in the territories were enforced” unequally in their favor.
“It is a credit to the Israeli army that all those laws and regulations which are in power in the territories should be and would be applied equally to all offenders and to all people who infringe on the public peace, whether they are Palestinians or Jewish settlers or Israeli citizens,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has pledged a campaign of protest against the orders.
“This will encourage civil strife and is turning the army, a bunch of 18-, 19-, 20-year olds, into police, which they were never intended” to be, a council officer said on Israel Radio.
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv.)