Text size

Extremist settlers in the West Bank and their allies inside Israel have in recent years been acting with violence toward government, army and security authorities, as well as toward Palestinians and Israelis whose political views differ from those of the "hilltop youth." It was in this spirit, known as "price tag," that mosques, Palestinian property and vehicles of the Israel Defense Forces were damaged, and the calm of citizens was disturbed by threats. The official tendency to regard the "price tag" gangs as a nuisance rather than an actual threat has to be shelved. According to a report by Chaim Levinson (Haaretz, September 13 ), the Shin Bet security service is of the opinion that "extreme right-wing Jewish activists in the West Bank have gone from spontaneous acts against Arabs to organized planning in the form of compartmentalized terror cells," which are difficult to infiltrate for intelligence purposes.

Defining this activity as "terror" does not merely have verbal significance. It necessitates an operational perspective for, after all, the purpose of the Shin Bet's existence, unlike that of the police, is the prevention of security offenses, and not merely investigating them post factum and catching those responsible for them.

As far as is known, dozens of youths, aided by an envelope of a few hundred others, are engaged in the activities of the Jewish terror gangs. For years, the Shin Bet has been busy identifying and mapping these networks. Were we talking about Palestinians, all of them, or at least the patently violent core, would have been arrested in anticipation of a trial or would be in administrative detention. It is not clear what is holding back the Shin Bet from acting against this terror - instructions from the political echelons, agreement by the attorney general, insistence on the part of the top brass or a mixture of all three. Last spring, right-wing circles took action to thwart the appointment of I., then deputy to Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, as head of the service. Those circles preferred Yoram Cohen, and he, with or without connection to that, was indeed appointed. The Palestinian effort to achieve independence will next week reach one of its peaks, at the United Nations and in the field. The leaderships of both sides must not only behave with moderation themselves but must also restrain the citizens whose actions are likely to lead to an escalation. The Shin Bet must now embark on a preemptive operation before Israelis and Palestinians pay a price for this vacillation.