The Amona Deterrent Effect

Young radicals seek confrontation to prevent future evacuations.

"Like a dog that comes back to sniff at his vomit, so the previous movers and shakers of the settlement movement are reverting back to the system of deals and closings, agreements and understandings, cut and paste, paste and cut ... and the wounds of Gush Katif and northern Samaria are still bleeding before our eyes," wrote a group of West Bank outpost residents in a petition circulated last weekend. Doron Nir Zvi of Yair Farm, Yehoshafat Tor of Maon Farm and residents of some of the outposts surrounding Itamar, who signed these harsh statements, no longer trust the Yesha Council of Settlements. They suspect the council is cooking up an agreement on the outposts behind their backs.

Even Daniella Weiss, the former head of the Kedumim Local Council, is convinced there is an agreement on the outposts. "The Yesha Council promised Defense Minister Ehud Barak to carry out these evacuations quietly, so there won't be another Amona," she said, referring to an outpost where settlers clashed violently with police over the demolition of nine houses in 2006. "To achieve this, the Yesha Council is maneuvering the residents' secretariats via tricks and deception: They described the evacuation of a hill in Mevo Horon as the community's desire to resolve a local problem ... They described the razing of caravans in Yatir Farm by Yatir's secretariat as dealing with 'negative' people, and now the Yesha Council is making preparations to evacuate the Asael outpost in southern Mount Hebron, near Sussiya, by filing a complaint with the police over the nonpayment of fees to Amana [the settlement movement's housing organization]."

The comments made by Weiss and her colleagues are symptomatic of the distrust in the settler establishment that prevails among organizations opposed to the Yesha Council, such as Noar Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel Youth), Women in Green and Gamla Shall Not Fall Again. Their members are not willing to forget the "failure in Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif."

Even Bezalel Smutritz, a more moderate opponent of the Yesha Council, attacked it in the newsletter of his movement, Komemiyut, while Emmanuel Shilo, editor of the newspaper B'Sheva, bewailed the loss of the settlers' deterrent capability in his popular column. "The deterrent effect of Amona is gradually being eroded by the Yesha Council's hesitant and appeasing policy," Shilo wrote, lamenting the fact that "the Yesha Council is unable, or unwilling, to nurture residents' consciousness of the struggle."

These harsh words turned into a real clash at Migron on Independence Day. The Yesha Council organized a mass rally there to show solidarity with residents of the outpost, which is scheduled for evacuation.

But members of Noar Eretz Yisrael showed up as well, declaring the event "Migron's funeral procession," and handed out flyers against the council's effort to negotiate an agreement with Barak on the outposts. Moreover, the heads of the Yesha Council had their car tires slashed. The council leaders described the youths' behavior as wild and violent; the youths claimed that they were the ones who encountered hatred, violence and intolerance.

Daniella Weiss and Noar Eretz Yisrael did not make do with "public relations": They also set up two mini-outposts next to Migron's fence, one for girls and one for boys.

Migron's residents, who have said repeatedly that they object to any solution that does not leave them where they are, are bursting with anger. Itai Harel, a Migron resident, described the youths' behavior as a painful blow from an unexpected direction. "All attempts to explain to the adults who dispatch the youths the huge damage, practical and moral, that such actions cause us have been unsuccessful, as have proposals to resolve the disagreement between us through a din Torah [religious arbitration]," Harel said.

Leaders of the Yesha Council, which in recent months has conducted intensive behind-the-scenes negotiations over an outpost agreement, are returning fire. Council Chairman Danny Dayan clashed with Shilo, the B'Sheva editor, urging him to "leave the club in the attic."

"The battle over the wholeness of the land should be waged via a large public relations campaign, not through mutual intimidation," said Dayan. He described the removal of caravans from certain outposts as "an internal community act that brought great benefits to the settlement movement." What, for example? "A promise to maintain an entire settlement with dozens of families, whose fate was uncertain."

Even Zvika Bar Hai, the head of the Southern Mount Hebron Regional Council, praises the negotiations over the outposts. From his perspective, it is a case "of one step backward, two steps forward ... That's how it was in Sebastia when they advanced and retreated. That's how it was with the Rujeb High Court of Justice petition, when Elon Moreh was relocated, and that's how it was in Hebron with Beit Shapira."

Settlement rabbis have also been caught up in the storm. They published an announcement opposing the violence directed at settlement leaders and expressed shock over the attempt to ruin the Independence Day event in Migron. "Dissociate yourself from the path of evil," wrote Rabbi Dov Lior and his colleagues, comparing the incident to the behavior of Jewish zealots who burned the granaries in besieged Jerusalem during the war against the Romans 2,000 years ago. But Lior later stressed that the manifesto did not state which side acted violently.

The absurd part is that the talks between the Yesha Council and the Defense Ministry have reached a dead end. An understanding was reached with the Civil Administration, under which some 15 outposts would be evacuated in return for full legalization of five others, including Givat Assaf and Migron, which would be relocated. However, Barak refuses to approve the agreement.