‘Enemies within’: Left-wing leaders slam government inaction on settler violence

‘Enemies within’: Left-wing leaders slam government inaction on settler violence

MKs Peretz and Horowitz say ‘Jewish terror’ against security forces must be punished, accuse leaders of neglecting their duties

Chairman of the Labor-Gesher party Amir Peretz speaks at a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, October 28, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Chairman of the Labor-Gesher party Amir Peretz speaks at a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, October 28, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Left-wing leaders on Tuesday lambasted what they said was government inaction in the face of ongoing settler violence directed at security forces in the West Bank, and called for enforcement and punitive action against law-breakers.

Security forces were stoned near West Bank settlements in two separate incidents on Monday in attacks attributed to hardline settler youth.

In the first, police said settlers hurled stones at one of their vehicles and slashed its tires after they were dispatched to secure an area near the Bat Ayin settlement. The incident took place near the settlement south of Jerusalem just a day after security forces demolished an illegally built structure on an adjacent hilltop.

In a separate incident later Monday, assailants stoned a Border Police transport vehicle next to the Kumi Ori outpost neighborhood of the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement. There were no injuries to the troops.

Soldiers and policemen must not be forsaken, “not in the face of enemies without and not from enemies within,” Labor-Gesher chief Amir Peretz said in a statement.

“Jewish terror against security forces in Yitzhar has become routine, while the prime minister and ministers are content with condemnations at most,” he said.

“IDF soldiers and border police risk their lives in security operations on a daily basis to protect those settlers, and cannot continue to be a target for them,” Peretz said. “It appears we cannot trust the prime minister, who is also defense minister, or the public security minister, to carry out their basic duties” in this respect, he added.

Democratic Camp leader Nitzan Horowitz.(Flash90)

Democratic Camp head Nitzan Horowitz accused the government of “backing” the violence by “doing nothing to eradicate [it].”

He claimed this was due to Netanyahu’s precarious political situation amid political gridlock following the election, and his dependence on settlers to maintain his political bloc.

“All means must be employed to punish [the perpetrators], thereby also creating deterrence to prevent future occurrences.”

The incidents come amid a period of tension in the northern West Bank, mainly between settlers from the Yitzhar area and Israeli security forces, but with Palestinians as well. Recent weeks have seen a number of assaults on Israeli troops in the area.

Residents said tensions between them and security forces began to rise at the beginning of last month, when the head of Central Command signed off on an administrative order barring from the West Bank a resident of Kumi Ori. A defense official said the 21-year-old man has been involved in violence against soldiers and Palestinians. The man denies the claim.

Border Police at the Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank, October 24, 2019, after demolishing a structure at the Kumi Ori outpost near Yitzhar. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

After Yitzhar’s secretariat subsequently cut off ties with the IDF’s top brass, security forces arrested two residents of Kumi Ori — one for lighting a Palestinian field on fire and another for threatening an army brigade commander. One of the suspects claimed to have been assaulted by the arresting officer.

Security forces in subsequent days twice reported coming under attack while patrolling the area. An officer was lightly injured in one incident, which involved 30 young far-right activists known as hilltop youth, who hurled stones at the soldiers and slashed the tires of their jeep.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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