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Israeli army struggling to control settler violence in West Bank

Israel's security service warns terror from settler outposts could turn the West Bank from a secondary concern to the war's main front.
TJI Wrap
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Man in army uniform

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, the outgoing head of the IDF Central Command, on Monday (Olivier Fitoussi).

Published: 11 July 2024

Last updated: 11 July 2024

Israel's civil administration in the West Bank is demolishing illegal outposts in a bid to stem violent incursions by settlers into Palestinian villages.

Last week, security forces demolished structures in an outpost built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land. Settlers in the outpost clashed with troops, hurling stones and burning tires to block the roads. The violent clashes continued throughout the day.

While the civil administration demolitions are at an administrative level, even the Netanyahu government is starting to act against the outposts. Last week, the government ordered the evacuation of the Oz Zion B outpost after the Shin Bet security service presented an intelligence report which warned coming out of the Oz Zion outpost could turn the West Bank from a secondary front in the war into the main front.

Five settlers were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and disorderly conduct, but were released after border police declined to press charges.

"Ultranationalist criminal activity has raised its head, under the cover of the war and the lust for revenge, terrorising Palestinian civilians who posed no threat."

Outgoing IDF head of central command Major General Yehuda Fuchs

The outgoing head of IDF Central Command said this week that settler political and religious leaders are not acting to stop ultranationalist violence against Palestinians. Major General Yehuda Fuchs was speaking at the handover ceremony in which Major General Avi Bluth accepted control of the command.

"To my great distress, in recent months and just this week ultranationalist criminal activity has raised its head, under the cover of the war and the lust for revenge, terrorising Palestinian civilians who posed no threat," Fuchs said.

“Unfortunately, the local leadership and most of the religious leadership... is deterred and cannot find the strength to act on the Jewish values they teach their children."

Fuchs accused settlers of “adopting the ways of the enemy” and criticised local leadership for failing to speak up against extremist aggression.

"Even if the perpetrators are a minority, those who are silent and fail to exclude them bring criticism upon…all settlers,” he said.

Fuchs said he did all he could to protect both Israelis and Palestinians, treating seriously "every stone or bottle thrown" and he pointed out that he saw himself as responsible "for anyone wounded physically or mentally. Each and every fallen person seared me. We investigated, we learned and we drew conclusions. I was not always successful. Sometimes, I failed. I will carry the bloody cost with me forever."

Fuchs added that the ability of the Central Command to carry out its tasks, to protect Israel and residents of the sector also depends on a strong, functioning Palestinian Authority with effective security agencies enforcing law and order. 

"Concern for the welfare of working, productive Palestinian civilians... is not only the legal responsibility of the head of command, and not only a moral value, it also serves Israel's security interests."

Settlement drive increases

Settlement is increasing with the strong support of the Religious Zionists in the government. About 12.7 sq km of the Jordan Valley was declared “state property” in June, denying Palestinians private ownership and usage rights, according to Peace Now.

The declaration created “territorial continuity” between Israeli settlements in a key corridor bordering Jordan, the group said.

The UN criticised it as “a step in the wrong direction” for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Canada imposes sanctions

Last week, Canada became the first country to impose sanctions on the Amana organisation, the main settlement arm of Gush Emunim.

Amana has been involved in the establishment of many settlements and unauthorised outposts through its Binyanei Bar Amana subsidiary. Its supreme goal is to settle one million settlers in the areas of the West Bank.

The sanctions also name the far-right individuals and entities Lehava, the Jewish supremacist group, and its founder, Bentzi Gopstein; veteran settler leader Daniella Weiss; Elisha Yered, a former spokesperson for MK Limor Son Har-Melech (Otzma Yehudit); and others.

The sanctions are unlikely to have a major effect immediately but if Canada is joined by the US, it could spell an earthquake in the settlement movement.


New West Bank Civil Administration head tasked with preventing settler violence (Ynet)

Israeli military commander in West Bank slams settler leadership over violence against Palestinians (Haaretz)

IDF’s outgoing West Bank chief slams settler leaders for failing to rein in violence (Times of Israel)

Israeli settlers involved in outpost evacuation violence to walk as police file no reports (Haaretz)

Israel's top officer in the West Bank knows the settlers best. Listen to his warning of imminent disaster (Haaretz editorial)

'Era of Miracles': Israeli far-right minister rejoices at West Bank settlement expansion (Haaretz)

Israel settlements drive heightens Palestinian land angst (BBC)

Mounting international sanctions against powerful Israeli settler group could be earth-shattering (Haaretz)


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West bank settlement closes access road to Palestinian town, angering security officials (Haaretz)
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