ANALYSIS / Why hasn't Israel evacuated the Hebron house yet?
The state announced its intention to evacuate house more than two weeks ago, following court ruling.
It is hard to understand why the order to forcibly evict settlers from the so-called House of Contention has still not been given. After all, the state announced its intention to evacuate the house more than two weeks ago, following the High Court of Justice's ruling on the subject. This week, after studying the issue, the Justice Ministry concluded that barring "weighty reasons" for postponement, Defense Minister Ehud Barak must order the evacuation within 30 days of the court's decision, meaning by December 15.
Meanwhile, rumors of the approaching eviction have driven the extreme right crazy. The violence in Hebron - and, simultaneously, in hilltop settlements in the northern West Bank - is escalating, and the security services have long since lost control of events. The army, which traditionally defers to the settlers and is wary of confronting them, openly admits that this time, the settlers are the provocateurs: They are the ones who ignited this round of clashes with the Palestinians.
But Hebron's Palestinians have also not refrained from stirring the pot: Tuesday, a 16-year-old Jew was seriously injured by a Palestinian stone-thrower. If the violence and especially the accompanying desecration of Muslim mosques and graves continue, the rioters could escalate to live fire. And ironically, all this is happening after the security services have succeeded in reducing Palestinian terror in Hebron to its lowest level in years.
The army and police have thus far handled the violence miserably. Palestinian property has been abandoned to the vandals, and local residents cannot even depend on the authorities to protect them. Border policemen have been stoned as well. There have been very few arrests, and the rampages have largely continued without let or hindrance - though a small step forward occurred when border policemen threw tear-gas grenades at a group of Jewish rioters. Only Tuesday, a week too late, did the army finally declare the area a closed military zone and put up checkpoints to prevent reinforcements from reaching the rioters.
Settler leaders in Hebron claim that most of the rioters come from outside the city - mainly from the northern West Bank - and that the leadership has tried to get the newcomers to leave. Yet in the same breath, with characteristic hypocrisy, they have been calling for reinforcements from throughout the West Bank to come and help them resist the evacuation.
Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the clashes is the involvement of Israeli teens and even children. During the first intifada, Israeli spokesmen used to lambaste Palestinian parents for sending their children to throw stones at Israeli troops. So where are the parents and teachers of the children who have been rioting in Hebron for the last week? Does the Compulsory Education Law not apply in the West Bank? Responsible adults have been noticeably absent from Hebron this week.
The euphemism settlers have adopted for their violence is the "price-tag policy." In reality, however, this is organized crime: They are assaulting Palestinian people and property in response to decisions by the High Court and government. And the attacks on Muslim graves and mosques have given the riots worrying overtones of a religious war.
The denouement is almost inevitable: With the police and army being criticized for weakness and the settlers preparing violent resistance, the evacuation itself will be very violent indeed, just like Amona in 2006. And since the settlers' violence appears to be actually hastening the evacuation, it is likely to come very soon.