When Israel forcibly uprooted 10,000 Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005, many feared the outbreak of civil war in Israel. It didn't happen at that time, but experts argued that the groundwork had been laid for future armed conflict between the Jews of Judea and Samaria and the left-wing establishment that controls many of the state's main institutions.
When a group of young Jewish "settlers" stormed an Israeli army base in the Jordan Valley on Monday, it appeared those fears were becoming reality.
A group of 50 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria calling themselves the "Hilltop Youth" forced their way into an IDF base and proceeded to burn tires, spread nails on the road and vandalize vehicles. The assault came in response to rumors that the army was preparing to execute orders to demolish a small nearby Jewish community.
The incident was representative of the widespread "price tag" attacks carried out by certain groups of nationalist Israelis who insist that the state will pay a price for uprooting Jews from their biblically-mandated heritage.
Israeli political and defense officials said the IDF base invasion was by far the most severe price tag incident yet, and insisted that the perpetrators be labeled as "terrorists." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resisted these calls, but did order the army and police to act "aggressively" in hunting down the perpetrators and in preventing future attacks.
"This incident deserves all condemnation," the Prime Minister's Office said. "The security forces need to concentrate on defending our citizens and not on these abhorrent acts."
Others were more focused on the bigger picture and the deep and widening rift in Israeli society.
In a meeting with the army commanders whose base was attacked, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said that he "objects to this incident out of love, not only for the dignity of the brigade, but the dignity of the people of Israel."
But, Amar continued, the concerns of both sides must be considered. "What transpired here was the result of deep and genuine pain," Amar said. "The greatest enemy is the specter of civil war. This is possible and should cause us great trepidation."
Amar and the rabbis who accompanied him to the meeting said many Jews of Judea and Samaria are frustrated at being made out as pariahs by the left-wing political and media establishments, and are angry that political whim resulting from international pressure can result in the destruction of homes and communities.
"All this is happening because we are being pushed into a corner," one of the settlers who participated in Monday's clash told Israel's Ynet news portal. "It is a shame we've reached a point where I have to clash with my brothers when we serve in the same army."
While many "settler" rabbis said they understand where the rioting youth are coming from, they nevertheless strongly condemned violence against the IDF.
"You can’t do a mitzva by doing a sin," Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City told The Jerusalem Post. "Harming the army is a sin, and so is hatred. The IDF doesn't set government policy."
Aviner also pointed out that there are extremists in all sectors of Israeli society. It is important to note that Israeli leftists and anarchists join with Palestinian rioters in assaulting Israeli soldiers along the "West Bank" security fence on a weekly basis, but receive none of the condemnation and scorn heaped on the Hilltop Youth by the left-wing media and politicians.
It is that dichotomy to which Rabbi Amar was referring when he warned against the possibility of civil war.
And even if the situation never again descends into outright violence, there is ongoing talk among the Jews of Judea and Samaria, and many within "Israel proper," of establishing a separate Jewish state in the biblical heartland.
Simon Halevi, a legal expert living in the settlement of Neve Tzuf, told Israel Today in 2009 that such a solution would actually be quite beneficial to both the State of Israel and the communities in Judea and Samaria.
The state would no longer be responsible on the international stage for the so-called "occupation," and the settlers would be able to defend themselves as needed - both ideologically and militarily.
"The security forces of Israel would be replaced by local Jewish soldiers," said Halevi. "We would show that this is our homeland, and not some colony," as the world claims it is.
The idea of a State of Judea has been around since 1988, when local rabbis proposed it in response to Yasser Arafat's PLO declaring the existence of a Palestinian Arab state on the same lands. Prominent rabbis began revisiting the idea in the wake of the Gaza pullout, and stated that if a large-scale withdrawal were ever ordered for Judea and Samaria, they would put the State of Judea plan in motion.
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