The case of the house in Hebron should not have made it to the High court of Justices. It is the State and the government that should decide whether expanding the Jewish settlement enterprise in Hebron is a national interest of the State of Israel, or an act that contradicts this interest. Had the government taken a clear decision on the matter a year ago or so, and ordered its enforcement agencies to act upon it, we would have avoided the violent confrontation we witnessed.
However, the weakness of mind and hesitation displayed by Olmert, Barak, and Dichter prompted the case to reach the legal establishment. This gave the radicals among Judea and Samaria settlers known as the “hilltop youth” time to build up anger and motivation, while preparing action plans. Ultimately, the High Court justices were forced to make a decision instead of the government.
As opposed to what some Judea and Samaria settlers claimed, the court’s decision was clear: It required the government to evacuate the Hebron house within a few days, or else it would be directly responsible for showing contempt to the court and undermining Israeli democracy. And so, Olmert, Barak, and Dichter were forced to do something – under the worst conditions and in the midst of an election campaign – that could have been done more than a year ago without being entangled in a wide-scale violent confrontation that threatens to boil over well beyond the limits of Hebron.
However, the decision was taken. On Thursday it was time for the police, IDF, and Shin Bet to deal with the mess cooked up by the politicians. The evacuation of the home in and of itself was not a particularly complicated operation. The real danger stems not from what was to happen at the house and its immediate surroundings during the evacuation, but rather, from the “price tag” strategy adopted by the radical camp of Judea and Samaria settlers.
We should stress that this radical camp includes not only a relatively small group of several dozen law-breaking youths, but rather, also hundreds of calculated and wise adults, whose declared objective is to turn every confrontation between them and security and law enforcement forces into a bleeding trauma. Such trauma is meant to be etched into the consciousness of the Israeli public, the Palestinians, and world public opinion. The accumulated effect of several such traumas is ultimately meant to deter the Israeli government from undertaking a major move in Judea and Samaria in the framework of a final-status agreement.
These Jewish radicals concluded that in order to create this kind of trauma it is not enough to emotionally stir the Israeli public, which will be outraged by the serious violence against “our finest men and sons.” In their view, a substantive and genuine threat to the security of the State of Israel and to its international standing must be created. In their estimate, this is the only way to deter the governments and public in Israel from undertaking far-reaching diplomatic moves that require the handing over of territory.
Therefore, the “price tag” strategy includes not only violence resistance to the evacuation itself and violent protests, but also the creation of a volatile situation in the territories via physical attacks on the Palestinians, vandalizing Palestinian properly, and showing contempt to the values of Islam.
Just like the second Intifada buried the Oslo process in Israeli public opinion, another conflagration in the territories was meant to put an end to the prospects of a future two-state agreement. The evacuation of the house in Hebron is a golden opportunity for Jewish radicals to implement this strategy. Therefore, security forces were required not only to prepare for the evacuation of the house, but also for containing and thwarting “trauma-inducing acts” that these radicals could attempt to carry out during the evacuation.
The recent clashes between Jewish and Palestinian youths in Hebron are a mere sample of what may happen in the wake of the evacuation. The Yesha Council and the silent majority among Judea and Samaria settlers understand well the kind of damage caused to them by the violence of the radicals. They also know that they will be the first ones to sustain the violent Palestinian response. Therefore, they spoke up and attempted to reach a last-moment compromise. However, the sane people missed their opportunity – their influence is minor in the face of incitement by a handful of rabbis and fanatic political activists, such as Daniela Weiss for example.
Yet by ensuring the right proportion between police officers and evacuees, while using the appropriate equipment, we can assume that the evacuation did not create the trauma which the law-breakers so much wanted to see. Perhaps this time around there will be no need for commissions of inquiry.