It was a violent day yesterday in Hebron when Israeli security forces acted to evacuate Beit Hashalom. Except for the hard right wing, condemnation of the violence, seen as initiated by young settlers intent on challenging the government, came from across the political spectrum.
In an editorial, Ha’aretz, commended the performance of security forces that conducted the operation and urged continued continued vigilance against “settler thugs.” But it also took the government to task for waiting so long.
The government erred in thinking it could negotiate with the settler leadership or the hooligans who made a mockery of it. Forty years’ experience should have taught the decision makers that every proposal to negotiate with these violent groups was doomed to fail.
The right-leaning Jerusalem Post, in an editorial unreservedly condemning settler violence, offered this view of the wider principles the settlers came to be upholding.
First, the vast majority of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding patriots. Secondly, in any and all circumstances, Jews must be guaranteed access to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The contemptible behavior of settler radicals does not negate this right. For long before Christianity and Islam came on the scene, Hebron was already a cornerstone of Jewish civilization.
Among the Hebron community’s defenders, belief is widespread that the evacuation is politically motivated. National elections are slated for February and the Labor party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who ordered the evacuation, is Thursday.
A blog post on Arutz Sheva, a reliable defender of the settlers, offered this take:
Make no mistake — this travesty was carried out for purely political motives. The Labor party and Kadima are both sagging in the polls, and fear that parties such as Meretz will steal their thunder and their votes.
Since there is no better way to try and win the hearts and minds of the far-left than by sending in baton-wielding troops to smash up "the settlers", that is what took place today – broadcast live courtesy of Israeli television.
Whatever one thinks of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, all can and should agree that what happened today in Hebron was an outrage. It was an act of treachery and tyranny by a caretaker government with no mandate and no moral justification.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman found that assertion dubious.
It may not be popular to give Barak the benefit of the doubt, but in this case it actually seems warranted.
Barak was not running in Labor’s primary, and apparently he deemed the Hebron issue a serious enough problem that he delayed his trip to Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Ron Ben-Yishai, writing in Ynet, concurs, but nevertheless fears that the violent reaction among the settlers could be just the beginning of a “Jewish intifada.”
These are difficult days for the Israeli government, for security forces, and also for the established leaderships of the settlers in Judea and Samaria. If they are unable, through cooperation, to contain the riots and curb them, not only will Israeli democracy be undermined; the whole State of Israel could end up facing chaos and possibly, heaven forbid, a civil war.
Tellingly, the right-leaning Jerusalem Post’s opinion pages today contained ample criticism of the behavior of the settlers. Michael Manekin, a member of the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence, writes that the evacuation dealt with only one house, while the occupation is becoming deeper and more oppressive with the construction of countless more illegal buildings.