Inter-Israeli Clashes 'Very, Very Painful'

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The father of Gilad Zar, killed in a terrorist attack last year, said that clashes between settlers and Israeli security forces were not what he had in mind for the memory of his son.

Israeli settlers came to blows with Israeli soldiers and police two times over the weekend as the security forces came to evacuate the settlers from an illegal outpost named in memory of Zar - Gilad Farm.

Scores of people were lightly injured in the fights that broke out during the first evacuation on Saturday night.

Dozens more were injured when the settlers, who returned to rebuild the corrugated steel "synagogue" torn down by the army, clashed with troops for a second time on Sunday.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has pledged to dismantle 24 primarily uninhabited illegal outposts, many of which consist of a shipping container or two, a water tank and a generator.

Critics charge that Ben-Eliezer, who is in a tough race to maintain his position as Labor party leader, is evacuating the outposts to win support from the left-wing elements of his party.

The issue of settlements is an explosive one.

Palestinians are demanding that more than 200,000 Israelis living in communities in areas under the control of Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza Strip) from 1948 to 1967, be evacuated as part of a final settlement with Israel.

Israelis consider the land part of their eternal, biblical inheritance in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Israel, which has pledged a freeze on settlement construction, says that it is an issue to be discussed in permanent agreement talks.

The Palestinian and left-wing Israeli groups charge that Israel has continued to build anyway.

But Yael Zar said there is no dispute over the land on which Gilad Farm sits because even the Arabs in surrounding villages acknowledge that it belongs to her husband Moshe Zar.

Twenty years ago, Moshe Zar bought a 500-duman (about 125 acres) plot of land from Arabs in the nearby village of Ata, said Yael in a telephone interview on Monday. They know it belongs to the Zar family, she said.

According to the law of Jordan - which occupied the West Bank from 1948 -1967 - the family should be able to build on the land, which is theirs, but no permission by Israel has ever been given.

Before his death in a terrorist shooting attack a year and a half ago, the Zars' son, Gilead, 41, had begun to work the land as a farm. They grow corn, watermelon, cherries and herbs there in the rainy season, Yael said.

Security officer of the region, Gilead was killed when his car was sprayed with bullets causing his vehicle to overturn. The terrorists then shot him in the head at pointblank range. He left behind a wife and eight children.

According to Yael, Ben-Eliezer reached an agreement with the family several weeks ago on the farm, which is located about two miles from Palestinian Authority-controlled Nablus.

If the Zars agreed to disperse some 2000 settlers who were helping them to hold onto the land there, without a fight, Ben-Eliezer reportedly promised that the family could continue to farm the land and leave a lean-to shed there under which they could park a tractor and leave their tools, she said.

A shipping container on an adjacent flat area would be taken over by the army, she said. The settlers dispersed. The soldiers moved in, but after the army installed a new floor in the container, they suddenly received orders to dismantle it, she added.

Moshe said in a television interview that the ugly clashes between Israelis were not what he had imagined as a memorial for his son. "God forgive us," he said.

"Now we don't want anything," Yael said. "[Ben-Eliezer] lied to us."

Ben-Eliezer said in a statement on Sunday that he had been talking with the people of YESHA (Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza) for weeks about evacuating the illegal outposts.

"There was no agreement, but everyone knew exactly what my decisions were," Ben-Eliezer said.

Ezra Rosenfeld, spokesman for the YESHA council, said there was no question about who owned the land but about what could be done on it, whether plant crops, sleep on the ground or put up a tent.

"The land belongs to Mr. Moshe Zar... He's owned [it] for two decades," Rosenfeld said.

Nevertheless, Rosenfeld said YESHA had instructed people not to use "active resistance." While he charged that the use of soldiers on the Sabbath violated every norm, he added that the scenes of soldiers and civilians clashing was "very, very painful."

The defense minister hinted on Sunday that he might take his Labor party out of the coalition government because of what he said was a lack of backing for upholding the law within the government.

"The attacks on me by government ministers and the lack of backing by government ministers in the enforcement of law and order are of utmost gravity, and therefore I am re-examining my continued presence in the government," Ben-Eliezer said.

The right-wing National Religious Party was also considering whether or not to leave the government over the fact that soldiers were bused in to the site for the evacuation of the outpost on the Sabbath.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said earlier that he condemned the attacks against the police and soldiers but also expressed regret that the Sabbath had been violated.

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