A thousand soldiers were unable to douse the flames of fanaticism of hundreds of settlers who opposed the evacuation this weekend of the illegal outpost known as Mitzpeh Yitzhar. Following an exhausting day of rather violent confrontations, the Israel Defense Forces apparently took its objective, but was then forced to deal with the Yesha youth's new invasion of a nearby hill.

It is tempting to adopt the complacent description of the confrontation as presented in the media - a scripted role-play, in which the settlers expressed their displeasure with the decision to move them, while the IDF soldiers and commander served as representatives of the law-enforcement authorities. Both sides adopted rules of restraint that allowed them to "manage" the confrontation without causing excessively grave harm to each other and, at the end of the day, the two warring parties returned to their bases - tired, yet satisfied.

Insofar as this description faithfully reflects the open spectacle that took place at Mitzpeh Yitzhar last Thursday, it hides the true significance and serious implications for the image of the state and its ability to achieve an accord with the Palestinians.

To begin with, the Mitzpeh Yitzhar settlers are non-partners when it comes to negotiations with emissaries of the state (in this instance, the IDF), as they are habitual criminals. They have commandeered territory that is not theirs in the name of faith, which, in their eyes, supersedes the laws of the state. Those who purport to turn to the High Court of Justice to make their case do not have the right, at the same time, to disobey the Shomron brigade commander who orders them to evacuate the outpost. Law-abiding citizens follow the instructions of the authorities and do not allow themselves to oppose them violently.

Moreover, the heads of the Yesha Council and its rabbis were intoxicated by their success in controlling the flames of the demonstration and bandied about the right to extra-parliamentary protest to reason their support for the settlers' rebellion. This is feigning innocence: The settlers do not accept the standard game rules in a democracy, which suffers a certain degree of disturbance in times of protest. Strikes and demonstrations end after a few hours (or days), while at their very foundations lies the understanding that they do not have an ability to challenge the authority of the state and the validity of its laws.

Such is not the case in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip: The Mitzpeh Yitzhar settlers, and the friends who came to their assistance, deny the state's authority to force them to follow the order to evacuate; as soon as the struggle at the site was exhausted, it was moved to another hilltop. In such a manner, the settlers are trying to force the government to conduct an endless chase and, in doing so, to strip it of its ability to rule and to undermine the legitimacy of its decisions. This is not regular protest; it is rebellion for all intents and purposes.

If there are responsible people among them, the members of the government, like the leaders of the settlers, must ask themselves what the events of Mitzpeh Yitzhar do to the IDF's soldiers and commanders. If the given is that we are dealing with a mere facade, designed to placate the United States and the Palestinians, why should the soldiers and officers agree to continue playing a part? And if, indeed, we are dealing with an honest effort to uproot illegal settlement points, why isn't it being done with the required resolve?

When the Begin government decided to evacuate Yamit, the seriousness of its intentions was never in question. When Ehud Barak decided to withdraw from Lebanon to the international border, it was clear to all that he wasn't trying to be clever. In some way, the evacuation of Mitzpeh Yitzhar appears to be a formal implementation of Ariel Sharon's willingness to dismantle outposts, but it doesn't convey a true intent to completely uproot the phenomenon. To strip the settlers of the desire to continue to transgress the law, the confrontation should have ended otherwise.

The government is accusing Abu Mazen of merely creating the image of one who intends to dismantle the terror infrastructure; while it is suspected of only pretending that it intends to dismantle the outposts.