In the latest of a recent trend of attacks in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, dozens of right-wing Israeli settlers stormed an army base in order to punish the state. The settlers reportedly accosted soldiers, threw rocks at a commander from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), set fires and vandalized army property. Rock throwing led to a minor injury, and the number of arrests differed between media accounts, with the AP reporting that two were in custody and the Israeli paper Haaretz reporting no arrests were made.
The attack is the latest in a string of recent provocations by settlers, and on the heels of an action by settlers on the border with Jordan. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the assailants “criminal groups of extremists,” and added that their “homegrown terror” should be met forcefully. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered security forces to “act aggressively against those harming Israeli soldiers and their commanders.”
The settlers live in West Bank territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War — against the norms of international laws — and within the confines of what would be a future Palestinian State. Beginning in 2008, settlers launched “price tag” attacks “against Palestinians and their property in response to attempts by the Israeli authorities to dismantle ‘unauthorized’ settlement outposts,” according to a 2009 report released by the United Nations (PDF). The settlers, however, have since taken up sporadic attacks on the IDF, which carries out forcible evacuations of “outposts” (new, often ramshackle settlements set up without endorsement by the state).
Monday night’s action saw some 100 settlers gather outside the base before about 50 of them entered. Harretz reported:
The settlers were galvanized into action by rumors that the eviction of several West Bank settlements was imminent. The Supreme Court ruled in September that the state must destroy Migron, the largest outpost in the West Bank. Forty-five families live in Migron, which has a total population of 280 people.
The Supreme Court ruling, which called for evacuation of the settlement by March 2012, hinted at a political crisis for the rightist Netanyahu. Settlers from Migron visited ministers from Netanyahu’s party, Likud, to plead their cases, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (himself a West Bank settler) said evacuating Migron “would be grounds for dismantling the government” by withdrawing his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party from the coalition.
Evacuations of settlements have even fostered divisions within the ranks of the latest “price tag” victims themselves: the Israeli army. In 2010, Eyal Press reported in the New York Review of Books that some entire battalions of soldiers with ideological sympathies for the settlers — or settlers themselves — refused to participate in evacuations of even settlements deemed illegal by the Israeli government.