In Rare Move Amid Growing Violence, Israeli Army Brass Meet With Radical Settlers

Following weeks of unrest after the death of teenage settler Ahuvia Sandak, settlement leader takes top IDF official in West Bank on 'precedent-setting' tour of outposts

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Top Israeli military officers meet with radical settlers in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, yesterday.
Top Israeli military officers meet with radical settlers in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, yesterday.Credit: Geulat Zion
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

In a move the military called “precedent-setting,” Israel's Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai met on Monday with radical young settlers, also known as hilltop youth, from an illegal West Bank outpost.

The settlers come from Maoz Esther, which was the home of Ahuvia Sandak, a teenager who died in December during a police chase. His death sparked weeks of protests in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which often turned into violent confrontations with security forces. 

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During the meeting, which was also attended by the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Fares Atila, the parties discussed the behavior of the Israel Defense Forces and the police in the West Bank. An army source said the purpose of the meeting was to conduct a dialogue and to try to calm things down. “The general explained that the army is an agency that carries out the law of the State of Israel, and we’re trying to find common ground,” he said.

The meeting took place during a tour Yadai took with Binyamin Regional Council Chairman Yisrael Gantz. Yadai also visited the settlement of Amihai, which was established for the families evicted from Amona, and the Malachei Hashalom outpost. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Kumi Ori outpost, which has been evacuated several times in recent years. Earlier this month Yadai extended for a year an order declaring the area where Kumi Ori had been situated a closed military zone.

Top Israeli military officers meet with radical settlers in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, yesterday.Credit: Geulat Zion

At the end of December, police gave chase to Sandak, 16, and four of his friends after they were found allegedly throwing stones at Palestinian cars. The two cars hit each other, and Sandak was killed when the vehicle in which he was travelling overturned.

Last month Haaretz reported that the case against the officers involved in the chase was likely to be closed, because it had not been possible to determine what caused the collision. The joint investigation team including representatives of the police and of the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct, have looked favorably on the police officers' testimony. According to them, the collision happened when the young people tried to block the patrol car from passing them.

Police shoot a water canon at people protesting the death of Ahuvia Sandak in Jerusalem last month. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

According to sources involved in the case, the prosecution is expected to prosecute Sandak’s friends for throwing stones and fleeing police, driving part of the time against traffic. They are expected to be charged with throwing objects at vehicles, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The sources added that it still isn’t clear whether the group, two of which are minors, will also be charged with responsibility for Sandak’s death. The police still haven’t been able to determine who was driving the car, since all four remained silent during questioning. They suspect the driver was Efrain Gozlan, 20, but Gozlan says Sandak had been the driver. The police had suspected the four of reckless homicide, but the magistrate’s and district court judges who saw the evidence said that this suspicion was not supported by the results of the investigation.

Teen girls clutch posters with the face of Ahuvia Sandak during a vigil last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

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