Almost everyone chalked up some political points from the failed evacuation of the Oz Tzion outpost over the weekend - that is, other than Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and the Israel Defense Forces, both of whom were painted in an unfavorable light by the minor storm that erupted yesterday over the outpost along Route 60 near Beit El.
Bennett is dragging an extremist hump as he lumbers toward the election, one that he has been trying to cover up during the campaign his right-wing partners from the National Union faction. On Friday, rabbis who support this faction, among them Rabbi Dov Lior, gave the green light for dozens of young people to spend Shabbat at the outpost in order to "strengthen" it.
Shabbat visits are commonly used to bolster outposts, but coming a week after the controversy that Bennett spurred with his comments about refusing evacuation orders, it's hard not to view the move as an ambush from the right against the chairman of the joint party, who tried to retract his comments after they drew attacks from the left and were of course exploited by the Likud.
The IDF was concerned by the proximity of the outpost to the main road, and feared that immediately after Shabbat the young people would throw stones at Palestinian cars traveling along it. As a result, the IDF tried to evacuate the outpost before Shabbat began. However, it appears that the decision to do so was made at the last minute and without proper preparation. The teens at the outpost confronted the border policemen, and five policemen ended up bruised (though admittedly there was no serious violence, certainly compared to similar incidents in the past.
The border policemen withdrew, and the authorities agreed to wait until after Shabbat to allow the visitors to leave the outpost on their own. That's what happened last night, and there was no violence at all.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the center-left Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) and Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) got some screen time to condemn settler violence, while Lior and his adherents flexed some muscle without making much of an effort.
The main loser was Bennett, because the incident brought to the fore those partners he'd prefer to keep hidden as he seeks to attract undecided voters. The IDF also came out looking bad: If you're going to evacuate an outpost, plan properly. If you'd prefer to avoid a violent confrontation on Shabbat, decide that beforehand.
Political parties on both sides of the debate over the territories have a great interest in pushing the IDF into this minefield. It would behoove the IDF's commanders to do their best to avoid getting dragged there, certainly in the three weeks left until the election.
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