A government decision to evacuate more territory may lead to a large-scale violent conflict with settlers, complete with live fire, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin warned at yesterday's cabinet meeting. The meeting ended with the ministers voting to end all government support, both direct and indirect, for illegal outposts.
"The scope of the conflict will be much larger than it is today and than it was during the disengagement," Diskin warned. "Our investigation found a very high willingness among this public to use violence - not just stones, but live weapons - in order to prevent or halt a diplomatic process."
While Diskin did not comment explicitly on the danger of another political assassination, the timing of his warning - just days before the anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination - was not lost on cabinet members.
"They [the settlers] don't think like us. Their thought is messianic, mystic, satanic and irrational," Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said, warning of another political assassination.
"What we are seeing today is the result of a deep rift with the faith-based community, and not only in the West Bank," Diskin said. "Their approach began with the slogan 'through love, we will win' during the [Gaza] disengagement, but has now reached 'through war, we will win."
He also warned that right-wing extremists view their "price tag" policy, in which they retaliate for every outpost evacuation with attacks on soldiers and/or Palestinians, as having been successful, and are therefore liable to expand it to within the Green Line.
The Shin Bet believes there are a few hundred extremists of this type.
"There is no clear leadership," Diskin said. "They are motivated by a unity of purpose - not to allow the security forces to evacuate people."
Following the cabinet vote on the outposts, the Yesha Council of settlements termed the decision "scandalous and demagogic," saying there is "no connection" between the outposts and extremist violence.
"The decision constitutes collective punishment and denies essential services to loyal citizens whose only sin is living in communities that the State of Israel built and sold apartments in, but has not yet finished the process of approving," it stated.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel also called the decision discriminatory, as many illegal Arab neighborhoods receive services from the state.
In addition to its decision on outposts, the cabinet ordered a ministerial committee headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to submit recommendations within two weeks on how to tighten law enforcement, including by taking action against civil servants who facilitate illegal outpost construction.
Most of the meeting, however, was devoted to ministerial tirades against violent settlers and attempts by security and law enforcement agencies to pass blame.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said that about one-tenth of Israel's total police force is already in the West Bank, and that it is impossible to transfer additional forces there, other than temporarily for specific missions. He also said that lenient sentencing by the courts deters the police from pursuing indictments "even when they have a suspect in hand."
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz accused the Knesset of delaying legislation that would allow stiffer penalties for incitement and ban demonstrations opposite the houses of civil servants. He also said the Israel Defense Forces must make greater use of administrative orders barring extremists from the West Bank.
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi responded that the army recently issued five such orders.
"Because of this, they [the settlers] are harassing GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni," he said.
Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan said that some 700 Palestinians are under administrative detention, "but when we wanted to issue detention orders for Jews, the Knesset denounced it."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the problem stems from the fact that Israel has no eastern border, and therefore every government must view setting borders as its primary mission.
Nadav Shragai contributed to this report.