The Shin Bet security service uses a liaison to maintain communication between its Jewish department and the leaders of the settlement movement. Over the past year, the liaison, codenamed "Yair," met with several key figures in the settler community and with yeshiva heads, in a bid to help the Shin Bet establish relationships with the more mainstream settler factions.

Relations between the Jewish department of the Shin Bet and the settlers have become fraught in recent months over a number of incidents, including the Shin Bet's involvement in the recommendation to terminate the army's hesder arrangement (by which young men combine army service with yeshiva study ) with the Har Bracha yeshiva; its interrogation of a Har Bracha student who held up a sign protesting settlement evacuation during a military swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall; restriction orders that were issued against several residents of Yitzhar; a restriction order recommended by the Shin Bet against activist Elad Meir, from the outpost of Haresha; and the alleged torture of recently released terror suspect Chaim Pearlman.

The liaison appointed to dissipate some of these tensions is a former military intelligence officer, a secular man from central Israel. He works closely with the head of the Jewish department, who can be identified only as "A." Sources in the settler community told Haaretz that "Yair" has been busy fostering a dialogue with the community leaders. On one occasion, he contacted the head of a local council and informed him that actions the Shin Bet disapproves of were taking place in one of the settlements under his authority. "Yair" asked the local leader to address the activities through educational means.

"He calls back any yeshiva head who leaves him a message, or any local council head who wants to talk with the Shin Bet. He talks to them and he listens," a source in the West Bank told Haaretz.

"Yair" also took part in a previously unreported meeting between prominent settler rabbis and Jewish department head A. The meeting, which is said to have been very tense, was called after the rabbis claimed the Shin Bet was harassing Elad Meir. It was held in the home of Rabbi Chaim Druckman. Also present were Rabbis Rami Barchayahu, Yechezkel Kofeld and Michael Hershkovitz, from the settlements of Talmon, Dolev and Neria, respectively, all in the Talmonim bloc, where Haresha is also situated.

The rabbis took the opportunity to voice complaints about the Shin Bet's treatment of the settler community in general, with Rabbi Hershkovitz going so far as to say that the Jewish department owed the settler community an apology over the Yitzhak Rabin assassination in 1995. They also complained of the Shin Bet's humiliating treatment of rabbis, noting in particular that when Rabbi Itzik Shapira was arrested in January, on suspicion of involvement in the torching of a mosque near Nablus (he was later released by the court ), he was led handcuffed into the courtroom. A. responded that there had been a mistake. Shin Bet representatives were not available for comment.