Haaretz is reporting that ‘unknown assailants’ infiltrated an Israeli military base near Binyamin in the occupied West Bank. The assailants then snuck into the mechanics area of the base and slashed the tires and cut cables of 12 military jeeps. The assailants spray painted the words “price tag” on various walls of the base before leaving the scene undisturbed. This attack comes days after armed settlers attacked and desecrated a mosque near the settlement of Migron.
What would happen if the Palestinians carried out such an attack? Would the IDF spokesman maintain silence and leave the issue unreported had masked Palestinians attacked Israeli military jeeps? Recently, Israel announced that it would arm settlers with ‘non-lethal’ weapons in anticipation of any violence surrounding the PA’s statehood bid. Even a casual observer of the conflict can see through this petty Israeli PR stunt since it is open knowledge that settlers carry live ammunition.
The recent series of attacks demonstrates once again that Jewish settlers in the West Bank are one of the most dangerous and volatile elements on the ground. Of all people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, settlers are the non-military group most likely to be armed. Many do not know understand that it is extremely difficult for regular Israelis to obtain firearms. One has to demonstrate a need for the weapon and there is no second amendment, like in the United States, which protects the citizen’s right to bear arms. Other than security guards, the only people in Israeli society that are consistently able to prove a need to bear arms are settlers.
If Israel is going to be taken seriously by the international community as having the political capital to change facts on the ground in the West Bank, it must reign in its rogue settlers. In the absence of severe punishment for those responsible for the attacks on the mosque and the army base, Israel’s ability to control its own population should be seriously questioned. With the UN vote on Palestinian statehood looming large, Israel needs to take an assertive stand against settlers and demonstrate the control necessary to be considered a legitimate partner for peace.