Settler who threatened IDF apologizes
DAN IZENBERG, TOVAH LAZAROFF and jpost.com staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A settler who apparently made comments calling to kill soldiers distributed an apology letter Monday, saying he was "in a stormy mood" when he made the comments on Sunday.
"I didn't speak generally against IDF soldiers," said Kiryat Arba resident Shmuel Ben Yishai in the letter, having been quoted in the media as saying, "God damn the IDF forces. We wish they would be destroyed by their enemies, that all of them would be Gilad Schalit, that they would all be killed and slaughtered, because that's what they deserve."
In Ben Yishai's letter, he apologized for his words, but said the he "hopes that the Holy One, blessed be he, will avenge those who are involved in evacuation [of settlements]"
The Attorney-General's Office on Sunday, meanwhile, ordered a criminal investigation into the extremist settlers' comments.
The settlers spoke to Army Radio in the aftermath of an IDF evacuation, shortly after midnight, of a small unauthorized outpost tucked into a back corner of the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba.
"This is an army that protects Hamas and Palestine. It is the army that established Palestine, the army that hands over weapons to Palestine, that sacrifices Jewish blood to establish Palestine, and this is what ought to happen," one unnamed settler said.
A second settler said, "We ought to carry out an attack of revenge against the IDF."
Outraged by the comments, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for the settlers who made these comments to be punished with the full severity of the law.
"Whoever speaks out against IDF soldiers belongs in jail and in judicial proceedings. We will show no tolerance toward such expressions and actions," said Olmert.
"We are sick of this verbal violence, which either leads to or affects other violence. We know this from the past. In no way will I allow this to continue in the future, and we will see to it that it stops forthwith."
He added that he had instructed Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to act immediately to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The IDF also weighed in on the matter and asked Shai Nitzan, who heads the Special Tasks Division of the State Attorney's Office, to press charges.
An IDF officer said that the army viewed the comments gravely and was "concerned that without legal action, violence and incitement will continue."
Shortly afterward, Nitzan ordered the police to open a criminal investigation against those settlers who spoke out, on suspicion of incitement to violence.
This is a very serious matter, said Raz Nazri, a senior aide to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, in a letter he wrote to Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan.
These statements, Nazri wrote, "crossed a red line and could not be considered to be protected by the principle of freedom of expression, even if this protection is extremely broad."
Nazri told Vilan these statements "were exceptional in their gravity, and therefore we decided to deviate from our usual policy and order police to open a criminal investigation against those who made them."
Judea and Samaria Police spokesman Ch.-Supt. Danny Poleg told The Jerusalem Post, "It's too early to talk about arrests. The journalists who interviewed the settlers know who the suspects are, but they enjoy journalistic immunity. The comments are on the Internet, and the question of who made them is not a state secret. It's a matter of time before we apprehend the right person."
While there were some angry settlers in Hebron and Kiryat Arba who agreed with the statements, the settler leadership was quick to denounce them.
Those who spoke on the radio are "hooligans who do not represent Kiryat Arba and the settlements in Judea and Samaria," said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. "We condemn them without reservation."
But, he said, there was also "no justification" for the way the army entered two family homes located at the outpost and destroyed them in the middle of the night.
Orit Struck, a spokeswoman for the Hebron Jewish community, attacked the media and the politicians for focusing too much on the comments of a few isolated individuals, when the real crime that occurred was the destruction of the two homes.
"The real serious action is what the IDF did, and not the statement of some person who does not represent anyone," said Struck.
But a number of parliamentarians from the Left disagreed.
"The extreme Right's horrifying statements against the IDF testify to [their] loss of any connection with reality and the state," said MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor).
"We will not allow the extreme Right to dictate reality for the entire nation. These threats will not deter us from acting with determination against all illegal outposts," he said.
"The outposts on the hills of Judea and Samaria are creating a poisonous hotbed for groups of dangerous and uninhibited [people] who are trying to obliterate all human quality from the Jewish people in the State of Israel," MK Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor) added.
"I support the security forces and call for them to continue their struggle against this wild malignancy sprouting in the hills."
Yaakov Katz, Yaakov Lappin and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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