Right-wingers Charged With 'Spying' on IDF to Prevent Outpost Demolitions

The five are Akiva Hacohen, 27; David Eliyahu, 19; Meir Ettinger, 20; Effi Chaikin, 20; and Elad Meir, 35. All are residents of settlements; Ettinger is a grandson of the late Kach leader, Meir Kahane.

Five right-wing activists were charged Sunday with tracking army movements in an effort to prevent outpost demolitions in the West Bank. The five were allegedly getting their information from soldiers on active duty, settlement security officers and even from coalition chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud ).

The five are Akiva Hacohen, 27; David Eliyahu, 19; Meir Ettinger, 20; Effi Chaikin, 20; and Elad Meir, 35. All are residents of settlements; Ettinger is a grandson of the late Kach leader, Meir Kahane.

settler spy suspects -  Olivier Fitoussi - 09012012
Olivier Fitoussi

The first four had been served previously with administrative orders distancing them from the West Bank and were living in Jerusalem, where the group operated a "situation room" to keep track of Israel Defense Forces movements so that if necessary, they could call out activists to try to prevent demolitions.

The background to these plans was a commitment made by the state to the High Court of Justice that by the end of 2011, it would demolish the illegal outposts of Ramat Gilad and Mitzpeh Yitzhar.

A search of a computer in an apartment in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood turned up numerous documents showing there had been several meetings on how to protect these outposts.

According to investigation documents obtained by Haaretz, on December 11, information began to flow into the situation room about a possible evacuation of the Ramat Gilad outpost. Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the field were the source of the information. At 9:30 P.M., a tip was received from Elkin that Ramat Gilad was not the target.

Elkin said that he had not provided the activists with any classified information, but was seeking rather to assure them that a government commitment to evacuate the Ramat Gilad outpost by mutual arrangement with the settlers was being upheld.

"Because there was a rumor that was raising tensions in the field, I checked whether the government was planning to uphold the agreement and I saw it as an obligation to tell [the activists] that there was no plan to evacuate Ramat Gilad. Any time I can contribute to preventing confrontations and work to obtain agreements between the settlers and the government, I will continue to do so," Elkin said.

The indictments served on Sunday are the fruits of the investigation into the events on the Ephraim Brigade base on the night of December 12-13, during which right-wing activists infiltrated the base, vandalized equipment and threw stones.

On the evening of December 12, as the situation room again began receiving reports of suspicious troop movements, the rioting on Route 55 at the entrance to Ramat Gilad began, during which the rioters attacked IDF officers and Palestinians. Later that night, the Ephraim Brigade base was broken into.

Though the activists didn't know it for sure at the time, the army had indeed planned demolitions in Mitzpeh Yitzhar that night. Once the disturbances on Route 55 began, GOC Central Command Major General Avi Mizrahi called off the demolition and focused on the rioting.

On December 14, police raided the Jerusalem apartment and arrested Eliyahu, Chaikin and Ettinger. That night, the IDF razed two structures in Mitzpeh Yitzhar.

Meretz yesterday called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into Elkin, on suspicion that he passed on information to settlers who were organizing to resist an IDF operation.

But it turns out that Elkin is not alone. Last Thursday, during a hearing of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on law enforcement in the settlements, National Union MK Uri Ariel said he had passed on information about troop movements to the settlers.

"If someone who passes on information about IDF forces is a spy, then I'm a spy," Ariel told the panel. "If they've arrested people, they have to arrest me, too."

At the same meeting, National Union MK Yaakov Katz said: "I call on all the country's residents: If you see an IDF vehicle en route to destroying a house, send an SMS to all your friends to prevent it."