"Settlers make wonderful scapegoats, they're to blame for everything; be it Qassams fired from the Gaza Strip or plummeting dollar rates. They make excellent prey. Ahead of the elections there are those who
are trying to dance in the blood of settlers, but they will not succeed," Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh told Ynet on Sunday following the government's harsh condemnation of the extreme right in the territories.
Settler leaders were beside themselves with rage about the "campaign of incitement" they say is being waged against their public in an effort to score political points.
Community officials in the West Bank are warning that such rhetoric is not only polarizing, but also liable to put the lives of settlers at risk.
"The Arabs also incite against us," says Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council. "As it is they are motivated to attack us, but when they see open season has been declared on us from the other side as well – the next murder could be aimed at us…. People can say whatever they want about settlers, and it's allowed. Words that come from the Left can also kill."
'This will only strengthen us'
The council's director-general, Pinchas Wallerstein, said the wave of polemic arises every year as Israel marks the anniversary of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's murder at the hands of Yigal Amir.
"Every November there is a fresh campaign of incitement against settlers. The man who murdered the prime minister came from Herzliya, and yet I still don't think that all residents of Herzliya are potential murderers of prime ministers."
Speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting, Shin Ben Director Yuval Diskin warned of another political assassination. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and various other ministers also spoke out against the recent bout of violence directed towards the army by extreme-right settlers in the West Bank.
Wallerstein took a decidedly more temperate tone than Dayan, saying that not all the ministers were
culpable. "If there are lawbreakers in the West Bank then they should be dealt with using all the tools at the law's disposal. The aberrant use of generalizations and administrative injunctions will only fan the flames.
Former chairwoman of Kedumim and herself a key proponent of the outposts, Daniella Weiss insists the new measures will only strengthen the resolve of the settlers.
"In the past the police were given the task of 'wiping out the hilltop youths.' At the time they thought there were only a few dozen, afterwards it became a few hundred and now they understand that there are untold thousands, and this has the government panicked. We can endure hardship, it will only strengthen us," said Weiss, who was recently charged with assaulting a police officer.