Efraim Base - Daniel Bar-On - December 2011
Soldiers stand outside of the Efraim Brigade base. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The mailboxes have been overflowing since the early morning. Newspaper fax machines have practically collapsed in the wake of the barrage of messages: Israel’s president is shocked by the crossing of red lines, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon warns of “dangerous acts of terror” of Jewish rioters, the prime minister instructed security forces to act with force, the defense minister is entering a briefing, the Yesha chairman has called in to condemn. Even Ya’akov Katz (National Union), “father to seven officers in top units”, as his spokesperson often says, stated that “anyone who hurts the IDF is not part of the settlements”, although in the same breath was quick to remind us of the Avishai Raviv precedent, warning of a “GSS controlled by the radical left-wing.”

Nevertheless, here is a cautious estimation: in two days, when the wave of condemnation passes, everything will be just as it was before. Authorities in the territories will continue to act forgivingly toward the extreme right, the settlement leaders (some of whom took an active role in the ugly campaign against former commander of the Judea and Samaria division, Brigadier General Nitzan Alon) will continue to close deals with the Office of the Prime Minister, and IDF officers will continue to tread carefully when it comes to settler violence.

True, every once in a while a top officer, usually during his farewell ceremony, will dare to warn against “Jewish terror” in the territories. But at the end of the day, these are all fleeting moments when the screen is lifted - when the eyes can readjust. Because there has not yet been a brigadier-general who has not dreamed of becoming general, or a police chief superintendant who has not wanted to reach the rank of commander, they are well aware of the power of the radical branch of the settlers, not to mention its boisterous lobby in the current Knesset.

In practice, this treatment is also reflected in this morning’s events. And although the event could be described as riotous in its scope, only one person was arrested in the attack on the Efraim Division, while two others were detained for questioning. Whoever believes that this time the rioters will be held accountable to the full extent of the law, is welcome to read the updates on the investigation regarding the arson attacks on West Bank mosques, or whether an indictment has been served in response to the torching of the mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangaria in the north, which was the last time state leaders woke from their slumber in order to express their shock. The sad truth is that the system of enforcement in the territories is helpless in the face of attacks, while investigators are struggling to gather evidence that will stand the test of the courts. Moreover, judges act forgivingly toward Jewish suspects that acted out of ideological motives, even more so when right-wingers are suspected.

This morning’s events should flash (another) red light, not only due their scope – the military has spoken of hundreds of youths who have taken part in throwing stones on Palestinian vehicles near Ramat Gilad – but also because this time there are many signs that the event was well-coordinated. From a first glance, it ostensibly looks like one group is behind the rioting in Ramat Gilad, the break-in at the Efraim Division IDF base, the infiltration into a baptism site in the Jordan River and the entry into Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. All this was done in order to create deterrence in the lead up to the evacuation of three West Bank settlement outposts within three weeks, which the government announced to the High Court of Justice.

A few months ago, security forces invested great efforts in preventing a possible conflagration in the West Bank, as the Palestinians were gearing up to turn to the UN. The escalation, as we know now, never came, and “Operation Summer Seeds” was hardly carried out. Today, at least, it seems that the biggest threat to the quiet in the territories comes not from the Palestinians, but from irresponsible provocations of the zealous, insane margins of the Israeli right wing.