The senior police officer in charge of the force ordered to destroy the nine hilltop houses in Amona referred to the rock-throwing kids there as anarchists. His blood pressure was still high the day after many of his policemen had been injured in the bloody encounter on that Samaria hill. Anarchists is a pretty apt label for youngsters who seem to have no respect for the law and the policemen and their horses that had come to enforce it. We Israelis pride ourselves on the fact that Israel is a country of law and order, and we expect all our citizens, regardless of political persuasion, to respect the law and the police that is charged with enforcing it.
Amona was an illegal hilltop outpost, and the government was in its right ordering the police to remove the illegally built houses there. And if anyone had any doubts on the matter, the High Court of Justice, by a vote of two to one, had ordered the government to do so.
But the High Court of Justice ruling, and the vituperation heaped on the "breakers of law" and the "right-wing extremists" by the Kadima ministers, many of them themselves former "right-wing extremists," could not have put all doubts to rest on this matter. After all, Amona and over a hundred other illegal hilltop outposts in Judea and Samaria had been established at the initiative and with the encouragement of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government.
Moreover, they had been part of his settlement strategy of establishing a Jewish presence on hilltops throughout Judea and Samaria. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing illegal about that. His defense minister, the man formally charged with enforcing the law in Judea and Samaria, did not make a move to dismantle these illegal outposts during the past five years. It is just possible that the youngsters on these hilltops were somewhat confused regarding the legality or illegality of their presence there. The same was probably true of the IDF officers in the area who throughout the years had received no orders to remove them. Where anarchy reigns, it should be no surprise that anarchists appear.
Further confusion was added when the government decided to dismantle the settlements in Gush Katif and northern Samaria, even though there was no question regarding their legal status. Ten thousand Israeli citizens were forcibly removed from their homes, while over a hundred illegal hilltop outposts in Judea and Samaria were left untouched. What could be the legal argumentation to justify this topsy-turvy governmental behavior? Is it any wonder that many youngsters from the settlements in Gush Katif and northern Samaria vented their rancor at their forcible removal from their homes by joining their comrades in Amona during the bloody encounter there last week?
Hints tossed out by Kadima ministers that not only would all illegal hilltop outposts be removed, but that there would be further unilateral withdrawals and forcible removal of settlements that had been established legally in Judea and Samaria, set the stage for what happened at Amona. That may be only a prelude of far worse to come if the Kadima ministers persist on this dangerous course.
There was little wisdom in the policy adopted by the Kadima government. After the relatively peaceful evacuation of Gush Katif and northern Samaria, and crediting the government rather than the settlers for the absence of violence, the Kadima government was now intent on exploiting the momentum it had gathered. After all, it was this "victory" that had given birth to the Kadima party. So why not sail to victory in the elections using the wind in the sails that had brought them this far? The slogan of zero tolerance for violators of the law sounds pretty good at first sight, but sometimes it may be an indication of close to zero common sense.
Rather than attempting to bring about a total and final defeat of the whole settlement movement and its many supporters, the Kadima government should have followed Churchill's dictum about being magnanimous in victory. Now they run the danger of having "sowed the wind and reaping the whirlwind." They are promoting a division among Israel's Jewish citizens. All this in the name of securing a democratic Jewish state. What is needed now is a dialogue across the divide that may yet turn into an unbridgeable chasm, and not confrontation.
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