Amos Harel, Nadav Shragai
October 27, 2008 - 8:00pm

Defense Minister Ehud Barak favors barring right-wing extremists who attack soldiers or policemen from entering the West Bank, and in extreme cases, even putting them in administrative detention.

On Tuesday, he plans to discuss the issue of law enforcement in the West Bank with senior army, police and legal officials, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said.

On Sunday, when the army evacuated an illegal outpost near Hebron, extremist settlers cursed soldiers, with one even saying that they deserved to be killed or kidnapped by terrorists. In an interview with Israel Radio yesterday, Barak termed this behavior "very grave."

"We are already working with all our might to restrain and halt these phenomena, with an iron hand if necessary. There [in Hebron], it was words. In other cases, it is deeds - raising a hand against soldiers and policemen," he said.

"This is also a challenge for our penal system," he added. "We need forceful, uncompromising action. We are going to increase the severity of punishments for extremists. We must convince our judges that this is not just bothering a civil servant at the National Insurance Institute, it's an attempt to undermine the state's sovereignty. Such people should be put behind bars. If there is no choice, we will also have to improve our use of the Emergency Regulations," which permit administrative detention or orders barring specific individuals from certain locales.

Barak has long viewed the courts as the weak link in the struggle to enforce the law in the territories. In closed forums, he has said many judges take a lenient approach to settlers who use violence against the security forces or Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the man whose remarks aroused the ire of Barak and many other Israelis on Sunday issued an open letter on Monday insisting that his curses were not aimed at Israel Defense Forces soldiers in general, but only at a few specific individuals.

"I have never generalized about any group, and especially not about IDF soldiers," wrote Shmuel Ben Yishai, a former member of the banned Kach party. "Nevertheless, there is no doubt about what is in my heart toward those responsible for destroying the houses of two families. Them, we will not forget and we will not forgive ... Anyone who was a party to expelling Jews will not be absolved. I pray that God will repay them as they deserve, forcefully and quickly."

Later, Ben Yishai told the Arutz Sheva radio station that he would never generalize about IDF soldiers, "most of whom [are willing to] give their lives for Israel. I spoke only about the evil forces who perpetrated this criminal act against the Federman and Tor families ... There has never been anything like this since the Chmelnitzki riots."

Army sources noted that Sunday's incident near Hebron was a direct continuation of settlers' violence during other outpost demolitions in recent months.

About two months ago, GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni issued orders barring four extremist settlers from the West Bank. That outraged many settlers, and recently, there have been weekly protests outside Shamni's home in Re'ut.


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