An Onerous Security Burden

It's time for law-enforcement agencies to take off the gloves in the struggle with criminal settlers and their rabbis.

The Yitzhar settlers' violent assault on troops received special attention because two soldiers were wounded by Jews in the midst of Independence Day celebrations. The Israel Defense Forces was quick to issue a statement saying the army will deal with the event "with the appropriate forcefulness" and promised that the IDF and police will act to bring the perpetrators to justice. An army officer called the assailants "scum."

Regrettably, however, this is not a unique event. The settlers of Yitzhar and other settlements that have become bastions of extremist rabbis have been harassing and attacking soldiers for years.

Security forces sent to protect Israelis who have chosen to settle in the heart of the territories, some of them illegally, have become the target of threats and violence. The settlers throw stones at them, snatch their weapons, sabotage their vehicles and curse at them.

Since the beginning of the settlement enterprise, the settlements have been seen as the security forces' loyal partners. The settlers were provided with IDF weapons, and state-paid security officers were enlisted to impose law and order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In recent years, especially since the Oslo Accords, instead of contributing to state security, the settlers have been a burden on Israeli soldiers, Border Police officers and Shin Bet security service people operating in the territories.

Instead of focusing on protecting state borders and the settlers from terror attacks, the security forces have had to allocate troops to protect the Palestinians, Civil Administration inspectors and even soldiers from unrestrained, violent Jewish zealots.

Everyone who has treated the settlers with kid gloves as they systematically attack Palestinians and sabotage their property should not be surprised that those settlers are now directing their violence at soldiers and damaging military property.

It's time for the Yesha council of settlements to root out those it calls "rogue elements." It's time for all law-enforcement agencies to take off their gloves in the struggle with criminals and their rabbis.

The IDF, police, state prosecutor and courts must deal with Jewish law-breakers in the territories as forcefully as they deal with Palestinian criminals.