ANALYSIS / Israeli Legal System Going Soft on Settlers

It is a fact that convictions for Israelis over charges brought by Palestinians are few and far between.

The decision Wednesday by Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge, Malka Aviv, to order the release of Ze'ev Braude, the settler suspected of shooting a Palestinian following the evacuation of the House of Contention in Hebron, did not come as a surprise to either the State Prosecutor's Office or human rights groups.

A brief search on the judiciary's Web site reveals that Aviv, according to her CV, is herself is a long-term settler. She was one of the first settlers of Gigit, a moshav which was established in the Jordan Valley in 1975.

During 41 years of occupation, many settlers and supporters of Jewish settlements in the West Bank have risen to senior posts in the Israel Defense Forces and hold key offices in the Civil Administration as well.

The friendly handling of settler Noam Federman's case a week ago, by Judge Moshe Drori, was not unusual. Although the settler breached an area declared a "special security zone," violating a military order and promises made by the local council head to restrain renegade settlers, Drori reprimanded the state for removing Federman.

That same spirit of lenience was applied when the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court sentenced Yifat Elkobi to four months of community service, a fine of a mere NIS 300,000 and gave her a six-months suspended sentence, after she was convicted of throwing stones at the home of a Palestinian in Hebron.

Even though it is difficult to prove that judges have been "soft" on settlers, it is still a fact that the convictions of the Jerusalem and Kfar Sava Magistrate's Courts against Israelis over charges brought against them by Palestinians - are few and far between.