Friday, October 3, 2008

The Souring of a West Bank Romance

Israeli Army and Settlers Fall Out


"The Israeli army officer in charge of the occupation of the West Bank, Gen Gadi Shamni, has lambasted extremist Jewish settlers, blaming rising levels of violence on the encouragement of their leadership and right-wing rabbis.

It is rare for a senior commander to speak so critically of the settlers, many of whom themselves serve in senior positions in the army.......

Akiva Eldar and Idit Zertal, two Israeli analysts, recently documented in their book Lords of the Land the close ties between the settlers and the army over many decades. They note that most of the settlements were originally set up as military posts; that army units are used to defend the settlements, even those unlicensed by the government; and that the settlers are given weapons by the army.

In addition, the army has established special units composed entirely of settlers and allowed them to serve in the occupied territories close to their settlements. Today, about one-third of the army’s company commanders are religious men, likely to have strong sympathies with the aims of the settlers.

Last year, Haggai Alon, a senior official in the ministry of defence, accused the army of furthering the settlers’ goals. He said it was co-operating with the settlers to implement “an apartheid policy” in which Palestinians were being ethnically cleansed from parts of the West Bank........"

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