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IDF, Shin Bet fear right-wing campaign targeting religious officers is out of control (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel 02/03/05)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/535421.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 security source.

The police, meanwhile, will shortly recommend putting on trial a number of right-wing activists who have been involved in attacks on these officers.

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 reserves.

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 disturbance.

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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