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33 The Gaza withdrawal was the first evacuation of Jewish settlers from Palestinian areas seized during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The settler movement thought the evacuations could be stopped through demonstrations or perhaps even an act of God. Instead, the evacuation of over 8,000 residents in addition to thousands of supporters took place and fairly smoothly at that—within four days the last of the settlers were removed from their homes and taken across the border back to Israel proper. Despite all predictions otherwise, the sky did not fall, and the national religious movement, of which the extremists are a fringe section, was left adrift and angry. The settler leadership, known as the Yesha Council, was scorned by many in the settler community for its policy of restraint. It had implored the settler community to refrain from violence, to focus instead on winning the hearts and minds of the Israeli public in order to force the government’s hand against the planned withdrawal. Despite their grassroots campaign, their mostly non-violent demonstrations, tears and pleading, the evacuation did take place. Furthermore, much to their horror, it happened with the support of the majority of the Israeli public. For the national religious sector, the Gaza withdrawal showed that the unimaginable could happen—people could be forcibly removed from their homes by Israeli soldiers and police. The lesson that the more radical elements took away was clear: If there is a next time, if there is a withdrawal from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, there will be a need for a different response—it is liable to be a violent one. The national religious sector has also claimed to have been proven right in its opinion that leaving Gaza would not end Palestinian attacks, pointing to the ongoing rocket attacks on southern Israel by Palestinian militants. The government’s relative inaction further justifies a feeling among the radicals that official policy is leading Israel to ruin and that drastic actions may be needed in order to save the Jewish nation from its enemies—and itself. Those feelings of betrayal were first exposed after the Oslo peace process began in the mid-1990s, but the Gaza withdrawal, known by the right wing as “the expulsion,” seems to have cemented it. “There is great bitterness, disappointment, and estrangement,” said Elyakim Ha’etzni, considered a leading member of the intelligentsia of Israel’s extreme right and one of the founders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron. “The camp is in disarray; they still have not gotten over the treachery.” The settler youth are especially disaffected. They feel betrayed not only by the government but by the community’s leadership, which held them back from more forceful confrontations with the security forces. The clearest example of their rejection of the path of peaceful civil disobedience and a possible sign of things to come took place last February, when Israeli

police came to clear out Amona, an illegal West Bank outpost. About 4,000 mostly young religious Jews faced off against the police who had been sent to demolish nine houses, hurling stones and cinder blocks at them in what became the most violent clashes to be seen in years between Israelis. More than 200 people were injured in the fighting. Just a few weeks before that hundreds of Jewish youths, many of them settlers, swarmed into Hebron ahead of warnings that the government planned to evacuate some Jewish homes there. They looked more like stereotypical images of angry Palestinian youths than typically Jewish ones as they hid their faces behind ski masks or keffiyehs while standing on rooftops and pelting Israeli soldiers with stones and eggs. At the time, Noam Arnon, the leader of Hebron’s Jewish settlers, said, ''This is the lesson they learned from the government: that terror pays and aggression pays.” There is a fear among religious leaders and officials that, with a leadership vacuum and no prominent moderate leaders in sight to lead the way, the small number of extremist elements will find a way to win over more supporters. Currently, the rhetoric of violence is again beginning to rise in volume, although an organized movement endorsing and committed to violence is less evident. One example of such increasingly violent rhetoric is the recent order by a group of radical rabbis and scholars against Yair Naveh, the Israeli general in charge of the West Bank. The rabbis are part of the modern Sanhedrin, which they established about three years ago as an heir to the ancient Jewish court that died out 1,600 years ago. They issued a letter ruling that Naveh was a “moser,” someone who informs against fellow Jews to the gentile authorities. The “Din Moser” order against Naveh is an extremely grave and rare judgment that, according to Jewish law, can merit the death penalty. It was the first such order of its kind since the days of intense incitement leading to Rabin’s assassination. The group referred to a ruling by 12th century Jewish philosopher Maimonides in issuing their verdict, which said “It is permissible to kill a moser everywhere, even in this time when the courts do not rule on capital cases.” The police have since launched a criminal investigation of those who signed the ruling. Jewish extremists have also taken advantage of the political atmosphere following the summer 2006 war in Lebanon and the crisis of confidence that followed Hezbollah’s month-long rocket attacks on a third of the country. This reinforced the extremists’ view that the state is weak and badly run. The spate of corruption investigations against top politicians, including the president, who faces possible rape charges, a finance minister suspected of embezzling money, and a prime minister questioned over his financial dealings also