The Jewish community of Hebron, in the city itself and the surrounding countryside, once again provided the headlines over the weekend. The group of thugs who decided to mark for themselves the borders of disagreement did not like the deal on the evacuation, which was reached between the Israel Defense Forces and the families who have infiltrated the al-Nazar house in the center of Hebron. These thugs used eggs, paint, stones and blows to clash with the army, which was operating on the authority of a High Court of Justice directive.
This ruling was handed down after it became clear that the infiltrating families had presented a fraudulent rental agreement that said they had rented the house legally from its owner. It is not superfluous to mention that the al-Nazar family had been living legally in the house, known as Beit Shapira, until a few years ago, when they decided to leave it after settlers seriously harassed them.
Settlers in the Hebron countryside didn't lag behind their urban counterparts. On Saturday settlers from Maon and the Maon Farm outpost attacked Arab children on their way to school. These children have been "enjoying" a military escort for some time, but it turns out that when the army assists Arabs, the army itself becomes a target of the settlers. Two soldiers were wounded by stone-throwing after they were forced to shoot in the air to disperse their Jewish assailants.
The violent thuggery of some Hebron residents and some residents of Maon and its environs has become routine. It is so taken for granted that a legal evacuation will encounter violence, it is so clear that Arab children will not be able to reach their schools in peace if they pass through an area under settler control, that these incidents no longer generate surprise, much less protest. The handful of Jews who volunteer to protect Palestinian rights are considered weird, the army is seen as incapable and it is as though the police left the law behind in the State of Israel and did not take it beyond the Green Line.
In other circumstances, it would have been possible to be encouraged by the determination with which the Israel Defense Forces and the police carried out the evacuation of the house in Hebron, just as the activity of the soldiers near Maon is praiseworthy.
However, the driving consideration is that this isn't about the security forces shirking their responsibility or a response that indicates a change in the way in which they typically relate to the settlers' illegal actions. The IDF, as the sovereign in the territories, has got the settlers and their supporters used to foot-dragging responses. Incursions such as those settlers made into the stores in the Hebron market and the al-Nazar house could have been prevented had the IDF shown determination of the kind it exhibits upon encountering Arab lawbreakers. Arab children would not need a military escort had the IDF and police decided, along with the courts, to enforce the law on all residents of the region equally.
The new defense minister, Amir Peretz, and public security minister, Avi Dichter, who is familiar with the thuggery of the Hebron settlers from up close, are now obligated to prove that the law is not an air bubble when it reaches the territories. Arresting the protesters, putting them on trial quickly and issuing the army with strict and precise instructions aimed at protecting the Palestinians' rights: These actions are likely to make it clear that the security forces' recent actions are not just a momentary legal spasm, but part of a policy that has come to stay.