Yitzhar sign
A sign pointing the way to the Yitzhar settlement. Vandals erased the Arabic and scribbled "revenge" instead. Photo by Hadar Cohen
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Hundreds of residents of the settlement of Yitzhar attacked a Border Police force Monday night that had come to the community to demolish five illegally built structures. The settlers greeted the force with stones and burning tires. Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were at the scene and were apparently surprised by the settler violence, watched as the rioters vandalized equipment and did not use the means they had available to stop them. Six border policemen were hurt, as were four residents.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to demolish the five illegal buildings as a punishment for two instances earlier this week in which Yitzhar residents punctured the tires of military vehicles that had entered the settlement, one of them belonging to the Samaria Brigade commander.

It’s good that the defense minister decided to get tough with the rioters in Yitzhar, one of the most violent settlements in the territories. The police must also investigate, find those responsible and prosecute them. But the minister’s response in this instance highlights his silence and the lack of action by the system he is responsible for when the same Yitzhar residents run wild in neighboring Palestinian villages, torching fields, uprooting olive trees, destroying property and at times hurting innocent people. These acts generate no response, no investigation, no trial and no punishment.

Now this wild golem of a creation has turned on its creators and is directing its violent behavior against the security forces as well, albeit not for the first time.

Whoever is concerned about the rule of law should have raised his voice long ago, taken measures against Yitzhar and other violent settlements and stopped these hooligans from taking out their anger on Palestinians.

A long list of “price tag” attacks, which are terrorist acts in every sense, have taken place without the army or the Judea and Samaria Police lifting a finger to stop them. Those who kept quiet then, who didn’t investigate or bring anyone to trial, who looked the other way, are now getting it back in spades, in the form of violence directed at the security forces.

The same determination that the defense minister decided to display against the rioters in Yitzhar this time – and justifiably so – must also be displayed against settler terror when it is directed against their Palestinian neighbors. Damage to an IDF vehicle, even if it belongs to the brigade commander, is no more serious than setting fire to fields and orchards or violent attacks on human beings.