Hilltop Youth in one of the Baladim outposts. ‘All we want to do is sit on the hill’
A stone was thrown last Saturday at a military ambulance arriving to treat a woman in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. The community leaders condemned the act and even conducted their own small investigation, which resulted in the expulsion of the young man suspected of throwing the stone.
The Yitzhar leaders further decided to force Hilltop Youth members staying in the community as guests to sign a document in which they pledge to act in accordance with the community’s spirit.
This incident stresses the trend that Judea and Samaria settlers have been pointing to: The main targets of “price tag” perpetrators in recent weeks have been the security forces—the Shin Bet, the IDF and the police—rather than the Palestinians.
“Price tag” activities are usually acts of revenge for terror attacks or attempts to thwart outpost evacuations. At the moment, however, the evacuation of communities is not on the agenda and things were relatively calm until the murder of Border Police Staff-Sergeant Major Hadas Malka in a terror attack at Jerusalem’s Nablus Gate. For this reason, sources in Judea and Samaria say, the young activists are investing their energy in a head-to-head battle with national crime detectives of the Judea and Samaria District Police and coordinators of the Shin Bet’s Jewish Division.
The “price tag” activists have a known habit of leaving hints or “teasing” Shin Bet officers. This has been particularly evident in the recent incidents, with writings such as “Regards from the banished,” “Binyamin Richter’s revenge” (Jewish settler Binyamin Richter was recently released from prison, where he served his sentence for torching Palestinians' vehicles) and “King Pikar” (Elkana Pikar of Yitzhar used to accommodate Hilltop Youth members in his home and was removed from Yitzhar for two months). One of the raids of the “Baladim” outposts in the Binyamin region revealed graffiti specifically referring to police detectives by name.
The new generation of expelled Hilltop Youth members and “price tag” activists is different from the old generation: They are 14 to 18-year-old boys, and most of them are unfamiliar with the Revolt Group, which was headed by extreme right-wing activist Meir Etinger. The Shin Bet takes anyone who is directly or indirectly related to this group very seriously, due to the dangerous ideology behind its actions: To spark a war with the Muslim world in a bid to topple the current regime and bring redemption closer. The current round of escalation, however, has changed its tune. In many cases, ideology has become nothing but an excuse.
The story of Elia Nativ is slightly different. Last week, the Shin Bet issued a two-month administrative detention order against him, after he was released from custody by two different courts. He is suspected of committing a series of “price tag” activities against Israelis, Palestinians and the security forces—from puncturing tires to torching vehicles, and is now being held at the Ayalon Prison in solitary confinement. Nativ and Etinger knew each other in the past, which is why the Shin Bet believes he is affiliated with the Revolt Group.
When I visited the home that the expelled teens are staying in, in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe, I met boys who have had a hard time getting along in the existing systems and are trying to find their way in a different environment. They all have arrests, detentions or expulsions in their resumes after being evacuated from the hills, and they are angry and frustrated. “All we want to do is to sit on the hill,” one of them told me. “Just imagine how we feel each time a detective destroys our tent or confiscates our stuff. We have no peace and quiet.”
After a series of unsolved “price tag” incidents, the Shin Bet and police are trying to restore the deterrence the managed to create after the murder of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma. “We have learnt our lesson,” says a security source involved in the area of nationalistic crime. “Every time the teens go back to the Baladim outposts, to Geulat Zion or Ramat Migron, I will go there too, even if it happens on a daily basis. Until they stop coming there.”