Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli occupation Israeli settlements Middle East peace process Palestinians

Where are the “moderate” settlers?

The Israeli media are filled with dire warnings of escalating, violent resistance to the construction freeze proclaimed by Netanyahu. A recent, on-line headline in Haaretz announced: “Settlers Ready for More Clashes With Police.” Much of the buzz concerns a “Day of Rage” in two days, in which predictable passions will come to a head and no doubt there will be confrontations between determined settlers and determined Israeli security services.

But we are given a different message by a regular commentator on this blog, “Y.Ben-David.”

He is a relentlessly, passionately right wing Israeli. In the previous thread, he provided some insights that he obviously believed were alarming and tragic. If what he wrote is correct, it offers hope to those of us who yearn for the Israeli government to keep its promises to the Obama administration, and who don’t want extremist (mostly) religious hooligans to wreck a mildly promising diplomatic development.

Y.Ben-David’s money quote starts with a description of what he believes to be “the docility of most Israelis in the face of repeated betrayals by the government of policy and even the very security of their lives.” Then, he tells us:

This passivity is particularly strong among the leaders of the settlement movement…they are considered super “mamlachtim”-”statists”, patriots, good citizens, willing soldiers, Zionists. Thus when someone who supposedly had excellent credentials as a “hawk”, “patriot”, and “warrior” like Sharon told them to commit suicide, they gladly did it.

One of the most legendary religious leaders of the settlement movement came to my town a few weeks before the destruction of Gush Katif. He said “we must pray, but we can’t take any steps to stop it…no protests, no civil disobedience, nothing”. I interrupted him and said “we are not just trying to save Gush Katif, we are trying to save the IDF and the country….rockets will reign down on us if we leave..this is not just a struggle for ‘the settlements’ it is a struggle for the very future of the state”. He was so stuck in his archaic views of things he couldn’t understand what I was saying.

Thanks for the unintended glimmer of hope, Yaacov. It is similar to the one provided by Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kirshner in the New York Times in an article (9/16/2009) discussed elsewhere on this blog. I previously noted:

They talked to the hard core ideologues, the people whom I’ve always believed would not be removed without a fight, whose implicit and explicit threats of violent resistance would make any Israeli government reluctant to take them on in order to fulfill the terms of an agreement. It turns out that while many will resist in some fashion [as happened in Gush Katif], only a small minority were likely to fight pitched battles against Israeli soldiers.

There is almost no doubt that the hotheads and “hill youth” will get the majority of media attention in the next few days. But there are more moderate, mature settler leaders who, for all of their angst and anger at Netanyahu’s “betrayal,” understand that ongoing, violent clashes with the army ultimately will jeopardize the state of Israel, a country that still gets their loyalty. I’ve met a few of them, over the years. Will they publicly draw the line against violent resistance? When push comes to shove (or, even better, before push comes to shove), will they try to turn down the temperature and try to enable the rule of law to prevail in the Wild Wild West of the territories? It’s not out of the question.

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