IDF, Shin Bet fear right-wing campaign targeting religious officers is out of control (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel 02/03/05)
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The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet are increasingly concerned by
a series of harassment acts by extreme right-wing activists aimed at
religious officers who live and are stationed in the territories.
The security establishment believes that the radicals see the
religious officers as "the weak link" in the chain of command as
implementation of the disengagement plan approaches, so they are
increasing pressure on them.
"We need to deal with the harassers with iron gloves," said a
The police, meanwhile, will shortly recommend putting on trial a
number of right-wing activists who have been involved in attacks on
The harassment has been going on for several months, focused on
officers who took part in evacuating West Bank outposts or who are
slated to participate in the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
Demonstrations have been mounted outside their homes, vilifying
posters published, threats by phone or in person, summons to
rabbinical hearings, and boycotts of relatives´ businesses. In
several instances, mostly surrounding outpost evacuations, officers
have been physically assaulted.
More than 10 officers have already been subject to harassment.
Alongside religious battalion commanders, the extremists are also
targeting members of the IDF rabbinate, in particular the Central
Command´s chief rabbi, Lieutenant Colonel Yehuda Weezner, and the
IDF´s chief rabbi, Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss.
Weezner has been receiving threats for months, and posters attacking
him appeared again this week in his home settlement. Right wingers
are trying to collect information on institutions where the sons of
the army rabbis study, as well as to put together a list of all
officials in the IDF rabbinate, both in the career army and the
The IDF rabbinate is thought to be critically vulnerable because of
the profound ties the rabbis have with the religious public where
they live, and especially because of their role they will play in the
disengagement - evacuating cemeteries and synagogues, a task the IDF
cannot complete without them.
The harassment of religious officers is "part of an entire strategy
aimed at leading a mass refusal move that will hamper the IDF´s
ability to carry out the disengagement," a senior security official
told Haaretz this week. "They hope to achieve broad refusal by
settler-officers, and view this as a preliminary phase to
destabilizing the regime here."
The source said many of these activists harbor a deeply ingrained
belief "that the State of Israel has concluded its task and that in
its place should arise here a halakhic kingdom."
Security officials have identified several prominent activists who
oversee the harassment campaign, mostly members of the settlement
Yitzhar and the Jewish enclave in Hebron. So far the judicial system
has been extremely lethargic in dealing with the harassers. The
senior source said that in his opinion, the time has come to put an
end to a narrow interpretation of the law.
"The harassment has already crossed the line," the source
said. "There´s a campaign of threats and intimidation of public
servants. The ostracizing and boycotts are diabolical, cruel. This
needs to be dealt with now with all legal force."
The IDF has been strict about making sure that every harassed officer
file a police complaint, and the police also appear to be taking a
tougher line on the matter. In several cases harassers and rioters
were arrested for a few days. The investigation against several of
those who harassed Weezner has been completed, and other
investigations are close to completion - against Noam Livnat of
Yitzhar, head of the Defensive Shield refusal campaign, and against
the Kedumim council head, Daniella Weiss, who preached refusal. In
all of these cases, the police recommendation that is emerging is to
go to trial.
In Gush Katif last week, police took a tougher approach to settlers
who disrupted a meeting between the IDF and Palestinian police and
shouted "traitor" at an Israeli brigade commander. Five of those
involved will be tried, and the deputy head of security for the Neveh
Dekalim settlement was relieved of his post for involvement in the
As for threats on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s life, the Shin Bet
perceives an increase in verbal threats and an escalation in tone the
closer we get to the disengagement. Sharon is viewed as the "engine"
of the disengagement, whose removal could bring it to a stop.
Security officials said that "real rabbis and self-proclaimed rabbis"
are creating an atmosphere that encourages delegitimizing Sharon.
Sharon´s security detail has been beefed up, as has policing around
the Temple Mount because of perceived threats to the mosques there.
(© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 02/03/05)
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