The cycle of murder between Palestinian and Israel
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s Jewish settlers were
being killed by Palestin-
ian terrorists, their
movement gained tre-
mendous sympathy in Israel
and rallied opposition against
the peace plan that was to have
gone into its initial stage.
In recent days, however, the
settlers have gone on the de-
fensive, while finding them-
selves with a burning sensation
in their body that they can't or
won't dislodge: the literally mur-
derous hatred for all Palestini-
ans that some of their brethren
The hatred came pouring out
a week before the magic date of
Dec. 13, a week that began with
the killing of Mordechai Lapid
and his son, Shalom. The dou-
ble murder marked a culmina-
tion of sorts in the daily attacks
and frequent murders of set-
tlers that had occurred for
Within the next week, four
unarmed Palestinians were
shot to death in the West Bank.
After the first killing, a man and
a 16-year-old boy from the set-
tlement of Shilo were arrested
as suspects. (The boy was re-
leased from jail and placed un-
der house arrest after a judge
found the evidence against him
weak.) No arrests have been
made for the other three mur-
ders, but police are reportedly
focusing on suspects from set-
tlements near Hebron.
Political activists and rabbis
from the territories condemned
the killings. "A murderer is a
murderer," said Yisrael Harel,
chairman of the Council of Jew-
ish Communities in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza, the settler
movement's main political body.
Noting the vows of revenge
made by Hamas and Islamic Ji-
had, Mr. Harel added that the
killers "have drawn us into a cy-
cle of bloodshed, whose worst
victims will be the Jews."
But the few hundred settlers
involved in the Kach movement
and its "military arm," the iron-
ically-named Committee for
Road Safety, viewed the Pales-
tinian deaths positively.
Although the movement de-
nied any link with the murders,
its members drew suspicion on
themselves. About an hour af-
ter the killings of three Pales-
tinian construction workers,
several Israeli journalists re-
ceived a message on their beep-
ers: "Ronen reports that three
Arabs from a village near He-
bron were eliminated as they
were driving, in revenge for the
deaths in the Lapid family."
"Ronen" is a code name used
by the Road Safety Committee.
Journalists had gotten similar
messages from Ronen after pre-
vious killings of Palestinians,
but only after the deaths were
announced on the radio. Since
this last message came before
the public knew about the mur-
ders, it led to the suspicion that
Kach members either pulled it
off or knew who did.
Heads of the settlers' council,
while condemning the murders,
refused to speak against Kach.
Will more Jews
Settler council spokesman
Aharon Domb said that if main-
stream activists campaigned
against Kach and its affiliates,
"they will step up their actions
just to show that they're still in
Settler leaders stress that
such groups as Kach, the Road
Safety Committee and Kahane
Chai represent the tiniest fringe
of the 130,000 Jews in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza. But Baruch
Marzel, Kach's chairman,
thinks many Israelis on both
sides of the Green Line agree.
. Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun of the
settlement of Ofra has lived
through a more protracted pe-
riod of Jewish vigilante killings
in the West Bank. He was one
of the Gush Emunim leaders
who spoke out most forcefully
against the Jewish terror un-
derground during the early
1980s. He says there is an
"abyss" between the main-
stream settler movement and
groups such as Kach, whose
members he called "hooligans."
Yet, he worries that, in the
current atmosphere, more Jews
will fudge the difference be-
tween self-defense and murder.
Although the Council of Jew-
ish Communities of Judea,
Samaria and Gaza called on po-
lice to bring the murders to jus-
tice, police have not asked the
council to help tracking down