Price tag - Haggai Ofen - January 26 2010
Settlers near the outpost of Givat Menachem, 2010. Photo by Haggai Ofen
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What happened on Monday night merely proves what has long since been obvious: In the West Bank, there is neither law nor judge as far as the settlers are concerned. They can run riot to their heart's content.

There is a direct connection between the findings of Chaim Levinson's investigation into the performance of the Israel Police's Judea and Samaria District, which were published in Haaretz on Friday, and events in the West Bank on Monday. About 100 settlers and right-wing activists rioted near the Ephraim Brigade's base. Around 50 of them broke into the base and proceeded to vandalize vehicles, burn tires and throw stones at the brigade commander, Col. Ran Kahana, and his deputy, who was hit in the head.

At about the same time, other settlers were running riot along Route 55 and stoning Palestinian cars. Earlier that day, some of the "hilltop youth" broke into a closed site near the Jordan River, Qasr al-Yahud, and barricaded themselves inside. In another incident, five Bratslav Hasidim sneaked into Joseph's Tomb, in Nablus, without permission. All this occurred in a single night's rampage.

This is nothing new, of course. In September settlers broke into Binyamin Brigade headquarters and ran riot there. But the scale of the latest incidents proves that we are no longer talking about a handful of "wild weeds" on the margins of the settler community.

And the Israel Defense Forces, as is its wont, stood idly by: Not one of the dozens of people who participated in Monday's rampage was arrested. That's how the army always behaves when it comes to settlers. The IDF, the police and the Shin Bet security service stand idly by when settlers rampage against Palestinians, torching mosques, groves, cars and houses. Now they stand idly by even when the targets are IDF bases and commanders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to condemn what happened yesterday and to convene consultations. But it is a belated and hypocritical response. He and the heads of the military establishment know full that settlers routinely run riot in the West Bank with impunity. Those who did nothing when mosques were torched are now reaping attacks on the army. And those who stay silent now will reap attacks on Jews within Israel.

The government must immediately authorize a forceful and determined operation to stop Jewish terror in the West Bank. It must break the armed militias and impose law and order. For it is not the settlers alone who bear responsibility for the lawlessness: The prime minister and the heads of the military establishment are also responsible.

Read this story in Hebrew.