West Bank settlers who invaded Israeli Army base among ‘enemies within’

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 By Rabbi Dow Marmur

Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM — The attack on an Israeli army base in the West Bank last month came as a shock to Israelis, not only because security was breached but because it was Jewish settlers, not Palestinian terrorists, who breached it.

The army is responsible for all security in the West Bank. Soldiers are expected to remove settlement outposts deemed illegal as ordered by the government. In anticipation of such a step in a particular case, a group of right-wing terrorists entered the base to remind all concerned that there’s a “price tag” for tampering with anything that challenges them. Though Israel’s armed forces are as close to being sacrosanct as a (still) secular state will allow, these seemingly patriotic Jews are prepared to cross the line.

Now when five of the intruders have been apprehended and hopefully will be brought to justice, it appears that they got a lot of information about troop movements probably from settler soldiers who’re opposed to army interference in settlement affairs and most certainly, as has now been confirmed, from at least two Knesset members.

Once again, it seems that Israel knows how to protect itself from enemies from without; it’s those within that seem to constitute a much greater danger. No doubt, steps will now be taken to make sure that unwanted Israelis will be kept out of army bases as much as Palestinians. This may include making sure that soldiers that come from settlements – potential informants – don’t serve on bases in theWest Bank.

Israelis are thus grappling with two kinds of internal terrorism: that of the fanatical haredim and that of no less fanatical settlers. (One of the settlers currently in custody is a grandson of the late and notorious Meir Kahane of Jewish Defense League infamy.)

As is suggested by the fact that elected parliamentarians aided and abetted the settler terrorists, to punish the intruders – or even to call them terrorists in public – will be very difficult in view of their support in high places and the reluctance by politicians on the sidelines to incur the wrath of the women and men many Israelis consider to be the true pioneers of our time.

It would have been easier if these “pioneers” could be bought off, but ideologues are, alas, not susceptible to bribes. The old adage that for peace (shalom) you have to pay (leshalem) unfortunately doesn’t apply here.

This is another indication that any peace agreement that would involve removing even some of the settlements in the West Bank has the potential of erupting into civil war and, therefore, isn’t likely to happen. For better or worse, knowingly or not, those in power among the Palestinians collude with it by stipulating conditions that probably no Israeli government can accept.

However, Palestinian and Israeli representatives are due to meet again in Jordan this week. Though skepticism remains the order of the day, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that efforts are being made to restart talks. The pessimistic view, therefore, isn’t the only one around.     

Optimists may also wish to speculate that the disgust that the Israeli public at large feels about internal terrorism, however religiously and nationalistically motivated it may seem, will come to stop the kind of incidents we’ve witnessed recently from anti-Zionist haredim on the one hand and ostensibly super-Zionist settlers on the other.

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Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He now divides his time between Canada and Israel and may be contacted at [email protected]

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