Right-wing court - Olivier Fitoussi - 3.1.2012
Protesters outside a courtroom hearing of right-wing activists accused of tracking IDF forces in West Bank, Jan. 3, 2012. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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A police official denied Thursday the use of agents provocateurs in the West Bank to goad extremist settlers into attacking security forces, as some have claimed is done. Police Commander Haim Rahamim told the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee that there had been 228 cases of Israelis attacking security forces in the West Bank during 2011, but all were at the initiative of the attackers, who were not pushed into it by police.

Last year, which saw a rash of reports of settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli forces, was the first time the police have kept separate numbers for attacks by Israelis.

Rahamim, who heads the investigation and intelligence division of the Israel Police in the West Bank, said indictments were filed against 65 right-wing activists on allegations of assault or for causing property damage.

A number of mosques in the West Bank were torched during the year, and although suspects were detained in connection with the incidents, they were all later released, he acknowledged, explaining that law enforcement officials have found it difficult to obtain evidence against the suspects.

During the meeting, MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) took the police force to task for its handling of violent acts in the territories by Israelis, saying the law is not being sufficiently enforced in the West Bank.

MK Aryeh Eldad of the right-wing National Union said he and his committee colleagues have all condemned the so-called "price tag" attacks, a reference to revenge attacks by settlers against Palestinians or Israeli law enforcement officials for steps taken to dismantle Israeli outposts in the West Bank.

Eldad condemned the use of administrative detention of activists, however, and defended efforts by activists to gather information on police movement and establish an SMS pyramid to warn of the impending demolition of outpost buildings.

"It is the legitimate right [of the activists] to prevent evictions by any means that is not violent," Eldad asserted.

In a related development Thursday, on the recommendation of the Shin Bet security service, Israel Defense Force GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi issued an order requiring 12 young Jewish residents of the West Bank to stay out of the territory for periods of between three and six months. The orders were served early yesterday at Yitzhar, Havat Gilad, Elon Moreh and Ramat Migron.

IDF sources said a substantial amount of evidence has been obtained indicating that the suspects were involved in widespread acts of violence against Palestinians and security forces. National Union MK Michael Ben Ari said the exclusion order was anti-democratic and was designed to silence the activists.