Israel polarized over West Bank's future
Israel may be on the eve of a guerrilla war between Jewish settlers and Palestinian Arabs on the occupied West Bank of Jordan. Such a conflict could spill over into violence within Israel itself on the question of the future of the occupied territories.Skip to next paragraph
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This is the view of a number of knowledgeable political analysts and politicians in the wake of last week's car bombings of two Palestinian mayors.
With the culprits still unknown but widely presumed to be extremist Jews, these analysts fear that Israel may even slide toward political anarchy. The example of political chaos in France just prior to Algerian independence in 1962 is frequently raised.
"Any Israeli who believes that what happened in France could not happen here is living in a state of unfounded optimism," says one newspaper analyst.
Moreover, the press and members of the Knesset (parliament) have questioned whether an armed underground Jewish terrorist movement aimed at total Israeli control of the West Bank might not turn next against Jewish targets.
Recently, graffiti have appeared in several Tel Aviv neighborhoods demanding "Death to Sarid, Avneri, and Pail [three members of parliament who advocate Palestinian self-determination]: Free [Meir] Kahane [a Jewish extremist, now under three months administrative detention]."
After the bombings, death threats were phoned to Rafik Halaby, an Israeli Druze reporter who covers the West Bank for Israeli television.
Knesset member Amnon Linn of the ruling Likud Party observed that if Jews had , indeed, carried out the bombings, "One of these days they will go on to bomb the cars of Interior Minister [and chief autonomy negotiator] Yosef Burg and Prime Minister Menachem Begin."
From other quarters the response to the bombing has been less concerned. Gen. Rafael Eitan, Israeli chief of staff, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the assassination attempts represented nothing significantly new in Jewish- Arab relations. He said, "The situation in the [ occupied] areas has not reached the gravity of Belfast, of Miami." He was referring to recent violence in Northern Ireland and Florida.
But Dr. Ehud Sprinzak of Hebrew University, a leading expert on radical politics and political violence, told the Monitor that the situation in Israel is developing exactly along the lines of France in the late 1950s and early 1960 s.
"While Israel has a different relationship to Judea and Samaria than France did to Algeria, emotionally, religiously, historically, the operational situation is the same," he said.
"On one side you have settlers who think that Algeria [or Judea and Samaria] are as French as Paris, as Israeli as Tel Aviv. On the othe hand you have a local population [in this case Palestinians] who deny this. And the main population of Israel, like in France of that time, is divided.Some share the views of the settlers. Some think the territory belongs to the Arabs."
The result in France, says Dr. Sprinzak, was the development of extremist underground organizations among settlers and Arabs who were ready to kill for their beliefs -- and violence by the supporters of each faction in France itself against the paralyzed government.