Since Ehud Olmert’s election as the new Israeli Prime Minister on March 27, Israeli settlers living illegally in the occupied Palestinian West Bank have increased attacks on Palestinians and internationals, and expanded takeovers of Palestinian buildings, apparently acting on Ehud Olmert’s statement that his government would "take the Jordan Valley and east Jerusalem", as well as 20% of remaining Palestinian land, surrounding the rest with a Wall.
Over the last week, Israeli settlers have taken over several Palestinian apartment buildings in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, in order to, as they say, "hold on to outposts in East Jerusalem and create an irreversible situation in the sacred basin around the Old City".
Settlers who were ‘evacuated’, in a highly-publicized move, from the old city of Hebron last month have been allowed to return, despite promises to the Palestinian residents that this would never happen. The commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank, Brigadier General Yair Golan, was reprimanded by Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for the agreement he reached with the Hebron settlers on the evacuation of the stores they took over in the city’s wholesale market.
Halutz reprimanded Golan under the premise that the brigadier general had acted contrary to the directives of the political echelon and the chief of staff himself, who imposed a ban on striking agreements and reaching a compromise with the settlers.
Such a directive was indeed issued by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on January 29; but a few hours later, Golan met with settler leaders and came to an agreement with them regarding their evacuation of the stores. In return, Golan promised that the state would consider an arrangement that would facilitate the settlers’ return to the market. The settlers were also promised copies of the keys to the stores and permission to frequent the area.
When word of the meeting between Golan and the settlers appeared in Haaretz that same night, Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit hastily advised Halutz to issue a written directive banning an agreement with the settlers; but this directive appears to have been passed on after the deal had already been done.
Also, an American volunteer hospitalized after being attacked last week by settlers near Hebron has issued a statement that he believes that the attack against him was pre-planned. The attack occurred less than one hundred meters from an Israeli military post, with Israeli soldiers watching but not stopping the settlers. And on Saturday, another international was attacked by settlers in the same area, and hit in the head by stones thrown by settler youth.
In a separate incident, Saber Shayta, a Palestinian resident of Salem village, was admitted to in Beilinson Hospital after being attacked by four settlers. The attack took place last Friday after Israeli soldiers refused to remove an Israeli settler from "Scully’s Farm", who had blocked a Palestinian tractor with his vehicle.
And an Israeli settler who shot and seriously injured a Palestinian last year was sentenced to only two years in jail.