Jewish Vigilantes in West Bank Vow to Shoot Future Palestinian Police : Mideast: Settler group warns that terrorists could penetrate new force. The announcement deepens fears that self-rule could lead to bloodshed.
The Judean Police, a group of Jewish vigilantes in the occupied West Bank, vowed Monday that they would shoot on sight all members of the Palestinian police force now being created under the Israel-PLO peace agreement.
The announcement deepened fears that the planned Palestinian self-rule in the territories could lead to bloody battles between Jews and Arabs there.
Leaders of the Judean Police, which claims 1,000 members but is believed to have far fewer, said they are effectively declaring war on the new Palestinian force because they cannot tolerate the prospect that it would be penetrated by Islamic terrorists.
“What should I do, wait until they kill me first?” asked Judean Police spokesman Noam Federman. “Now, the order is: If you see a Palestinian policeman, you shoot him first.”
Recruitment is already under way for the new Palestinian police force. It will keep order first in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, where the self-rule plan starts in mid-January, and later across the rest of the West Bank as well. Palestine Liberation Organization officials say the force eventually will total 20,000 to 30,000.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other Israeli leaders have touted the idea as a boon for Israel, because it will relieve the Israeli army of the burden of trying to keep order among mainly hostile Palestinians. They have assured Israelis that the Palestinian police will have no jurisdiction over the 130,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.
But many settlers remain painfully apprehensive about the prospect of what could happen when the Israeli army withdraws from the areas they have to cross to reach their settlements.
“No one is prepared to leave his security in the hands of Yasser Arafat,” said Judean Police member Tiran Polak.
The Israeli authorities are watching the Judean Police but say they cannot arrest members until they go beyond threats and actually commit a crime. “We have our finger on the pulse,” said Adi Gonen, national police spokesman.
The Judean Police are an outgrowth of the ultra-Zionist Kach movement founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and recall the “Jewish Underground” that operated in the West Bank in the early 1980s, attacking Palestinians there until Israeli police managed to track down its 25 members and bring them to trial in 1985.
After holding training camps for several years, the Judean Police claim to have at least a couple of members in each settlement. In the past they have concentrated on retaliating for attacks that came as part of the intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Their threat to shoot Palestinian police on sight followed a PLO official’s comment that he could not be sure of barring all members of Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group, from entering the police just as he could not be sure of keeping out Israeli spies.
Other settlers meanwhile are pushing for a full “Judean state” in the West Bank, challenging both the Palestinian autonomous government that will be created there and Israel itself.
For Baruch Ben-Yosef, a Kahane disciple, this would be a “truly Jewish” state where Jewish religious law prevailed and where judges and scholars sitting in a reconstituted version of the Sanhedrin, the ancient high court, would interpret the laws. And the state would be ruled by an “autocrat in the Jewish tradition.”
“Israel is not a Jewish state--it is a democratic, secular state with a Jewish majority,” Ben-Yosef argued. “Democracy, civil society, common law--those are the antithesis of Judaism. All that may be fine for Gentiles, but it is not for Jews.
“We see in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) an opportunity to establish a truly Jewish state. Israel pulls out, we remain, and we then create our own State of Judea.”
Ben-Yosef and his colleagues have been recruiting actively in the West Bank settlements for most of the past year as anxiety has grown there about an Israeli withdrawal. They are taking their message to U.S., Russian and South African immigrants, hoping to find settlers to replace those who leave.
An initial task, he said, is to form settlement “defense teams” that will link up with the Judean Police in opposing Palestinian autonomy.
“We can’t share the land--that’s where we start,” Ben-Yosef said. “They (the Palestinians) will run like dogs when the time comes. And we would like to take revenge too. Revenge is a godly idea, and they deserve it.”