Israeli Army Clears Out Extremist Settler Outpost

Baladim was considered the headquarters of the most extreme Jewish settlers in the West Bank

Yotam Berger
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Masked men attacking leftist activists near the outpost of Baladim some two months ago.
Masked men attacking leftist activists near the outpost of Baladim some two months ago.Credit: Ta'ayush
Yotam Berger

The army this month removed the residents of Baladim, a settlement outpost in the West Bank, near Kokhav Hashahar.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that the head of the Central Command had signed an order in early June ordering the removal of dozens of lone settlers who were living in the community, located near the settlement of Kokhav Hashahar.

Baladim was considered the headquarters of the most extreme Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Its mobile homes housed dozens of people at any given time. In recent weeks there had been incidents of serious violence in the area against left-wing activists and against soldiers at Baladim.

Two violent incidents in April, one an attack on leftists and the other an attack on a soldier in a military jeep, presumably led to the decision to evacuate the outpost.

Sources told Haaretz that when the outpost was to be evacuated, a senior Central Command officer summoned leaders from the settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, and warned them that the clearing of the Baladim outpost was liable to bring a group of extremist youths to Yitzhar. According to a source, the settlers sought to understand what exactly the commander wanted them to do, and they were told, “as far as the army is concerned,” the settlement could expel them.

The settlers responded that they couldn’t take responsibility for an extreme and violent group. Sources in the settlement who spoke to Haaretz were critical of the army, saying it was shirking their responsibility.

Indeed, according to a number of sources in Yitzhar, a small group of extremists has been staying in the settlement. It was they, the sources said, who threw rocks Saturday night at a military ambulance.

The residents of Yitzhar renounced these extremists and even disseminated a type of code of ethics among the settlement’s young people aimed at preventing such incidents. Even so, the residents stressed that they cannot be responsible for the behavior of the radical youths who have come to their area.

Yitzhar is considered an ideological focal point of the radical settler right, yet a large number of residents who spoke to Haaretz condemned the recent stone throwing and the extremist ideology of the Baladim settlers.

Israel Channel 2 television news reported on Sunday that Israel’s Shin Bet security service has recently asked a number of rabbinic leaders associated with the extreme right, including Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, head of the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva in Yitzhar, to help battle violence by radical youths in the West Bank and within the Green Line.

Shortly after the Channel 2 report, Meir Ettinger, considered one of the leaders of the group of violent fringe youths dubbed the “hilltop youth,” tweeted: “The Shin Bet is now trying to portray itself as trying to calm the field and ‘get close.’ In fact they are continuing to break records for abuse and political persecution. Liars.”

A source in Yitzhar said, “It seems as if it’s comfortable for the defense establishment to funnel these youths to Yitzhar, as it is for the welfare system and the Education Ministry. These officials are supposed to be providing a solution. Instead, they are shirking this responsibility and aren’t creating the proper educational and social infrastructure for these teens. Afterward it’s easy and very comfortable to point an accusing finger at the community.”

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