IDF Chief Prosecutor Says He Warned of Settlers Taking Law into Own Hands

Israel’s chief military prosecutor testified this week that as far back as two years ago he issued warnings about Jewish settlers taking the law into their own hands.

The army’s judge advocate general, Brig. Gen. Ilan Schiff, appeared Wednesday before the commission probing the Feb. 25 Hebron massacre.

Schiff also spoke of the difficulty of interrogating settlers because they, unlike the Palestinian residents of the territories, are responsible only to the civil, not the military, authorities.

Basically admitting that Israel had done a poor job of providing evenhanded justice in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Schiff told the panel, “It is difficult to maintain the rule of law” within the territories.

He added that despite all the efforts of the Israeli authorities, it was difficult to envisage a time when the system of justice in the territories would resemble that within the Green Line, Israel’s boundaries before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Like others testifying before him, Schiff also told the commission that the army had open-fire directives prohibiting soldiers from firing on settlers. The directives, he said, never took into consideration the possibility that Jewish settlers would open fire on Palestinians in the presence of soldiers.

The matter of the open-fire orders as they pertain to Jewish settlers has been central to the sessions of the commission, which has been attempting to understand how the Feb. 25 attack on Palestinian worshipers by Dr. Baruch Goldstein could have taken place.

GOLDSTEIN’S WIFE REFUSING TO COOPERATE

Israel Television reported Wednesday that Goldstein’s wife, Miriam, was refusing to cooperate with police investigating the Hebron massacre.

On Tuesday, a Jewish settler who was on reserve duty on the day of the massacre, Shlomo Edelstein, testified before the commission that Miriam Goldstein had contacted him that morning in an effort to locate her husband.

When Edelstein later told her that a security officer had dropped him off at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, she responded that her husband had not gone there to pray.

But he had not taken her words as a warning, nor did he relay her message to his commander, Edelstein told the commission.

It is still unclear whether Miriam Goldstein will testify before the panel, which is headed by the president of the Supreme Court. Justice Meir Shamgar.

A petition has meanwhile been brought before the High Court of Justice to order the Shamgar panel to desist from referring to Baruch Goldstein as “the murderer.”

A Jerusalemite, Joel Lerner, has sought the order on the basis that no court has yet found Goldstein guilty of the massacre.

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