Shimon Pere - GPO - 15/12/2011
Shimon Peres meeting settler leaders in Jerusalem, December 15, 2011. Photo by GPO
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President Shimon Peres met on Thursday with settler leaders following the escalating violence by right-wing extremists. Among the leaders he met were Danny Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council of West Bank settlements, representatives of the pre-army religious program (Mechina) and rabbis.

Earlier on Thursday, a mosque was torched in the West Bank and defaced by Hebrew graffiti. The governor of Ramallah, Laila Ghanam, says the mosque in the nearby village of Burqa was doused with gasoline and set afire on Thursday. The Israeli military says carpets and chairs were burned.

Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh condemned the arson on Thursday. Abu Rudeineh told Wafa news agency that the act was a declaration of war by the settlers against Palestinians.

Peres said that the meeting itself is important for the sake national unity, but criticized the actions of the extreme right-wing activists. "What these guys are doing is very serious," he said. "Israel has always been proud of protecting all of the holy sites. Today, when the Muslim world is where it is, to give them justification to attack Israel is a disaster, it's crazy and it must stopped." He added that "we are a moral people; the Ten Commandments are my guide, in politics too."

Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council, said in the meeting that "most of the settlers are opposed to violence. There is no justification for (these) actions, no matter what the religion of the victims is." However, Dayan added that "in recent days there is a trend of incitement… against the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. There is no better man than Peres to put a stop to this."

The torching of the mosque came hours after Earlier on Thursday, the IDF and Border Police dismantled two illegal buildings in the West Bank outpost of Mitzpeh Yitzhar.

The area around the outpost was declared a closed military zone, in order to prevent anyone from obstructing the demolition.

Some 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a key West Bank military base early Tuesday morning and threw rocks, burned tires, and vandalized military vehicles.

The settlers were acting in response to a rumor that the IDF would act to evict a West Bank settlement in accordance with an August Supreme Court ruling.