Ran Cohen Accused of Incitement Against Settlers

The new Yesha lobby leader in the Knesset, MK Yehiel Hazan (Likud), accused a parliamentary colleague from Meretz, Ran Cohen, of incitement against settlers, for complaining yesterday that settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have more than 10,000 weapons.

Hazan said settlers risk their lives daily to personally protect Israel's interests. Cohen's comments about the settlers, which portrayed them as a dangerous militia, are nothing but incitement, Hazan said.

In truth, most settlers are law-abiding citizens and the weapons are meant for self defense.

"I wonder if MK Cohen takes the same care to check how many weapons the Palestinians have," Hazan said.

Cohen revealed a document compiled by the Defense Ministry, indicating there are around 8,000 small arms in the settlements of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, about two thirds of them held by settlers and maintained in arms storage facilities. Gush Katif and the settlements in the Gaza Strip have around 2,600 rifles and machine guns.

In a letter to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Cohen wrote: "The large number of weapons combined with the other attributes [of the population possessing them] might backfire once the foreign relations, political and -security situation changes and a sovereign, democratically-elected government attempts to change the reality of occupation in the territories."