After a campaign of intimidation, threats, a coalition crisis and apocalyptic predictions, 33 families were evacuated from the Ulpana neighbourhood with no resistance. Minister Erdan contacted the conciliator Rabbi, Zalman Melamed, and made a “pilgrimage” to his house at Beit El, only to accept the demands of the settlers in return for a quiet evacuation, i.e. to get 300 housing units at Beit El, 550 housing units in additional settlements and an end to the evacuation procedure of outposts including Givat Assaf and Amona built on private Palestinians lands. Much has been written and told about the enormous costs the Israeli government agreed to pay to the settlers for their quiet evacuation; it seems that for the settlers, the deal paid off.
But further to technical calculations of profit and loss, only a few had noticed that during this current evacuation, the Hilltop Youth completely disappeared, the Price Tag phenomenon faded, thousands of boys did not create fuss and the West Bank remained quiet.
Such quiet behaviour of young settlers casts doubt on the reliability of political and religious accusations made by the settler’s leadership regarding the “bad seeds” in every case of riot or acts of the Price Tag.
Rabbi Melamed proved that his instructions can produce calm and quiet behaviour and if he decides differently, these youths’ violent actions will take place, thus proving he has absolute control over the events.
Therefore, the responsibility from this day on must lie at the doorstep of the rabbis and spiritual leaders who direct the yeshivas located in the occupied territories, funded by the Israeli taxpayer. The state must demand these rabbis to take responsibility for what is happening and not just settle with accusing these alleged anarchists, rebellious and frustrated, as if they are doing what ever they want. The phenomenon of the Hilltop Youths’ violent actions start somewhere and it is in the yeshivas of Beit El, Tapuach, Elon Moreh and Yitzhar.
It is time to replace the concept of the Hilltop Youth and change it to Yeshivas Youth: a semi-military arm of the religious leadership in the occupied territories, a leadership that can control the flames, ignite them and extinguish them off; depending on their changing needs and goodwill.
The just and effective way to combat these phenomena is to make it clear that the state funding for religious institutions in the territories cannot not be provided while the incitement of violence toward the Palestinians, soldiers, left wing activists and even right-wing who are not willing to fall in line with the positions of the rabbis, is taking place.
The quiet evacuation of Ulpana must put the State of Israel again in perspective- it is possible to evacuate settlers from their houses; it is a decree that the public opinion can bare, and with relative ease.
The settlers may have achieved victory and gained impressive compensations from the government, but the consciousness had changed, and today it should be clear that like any sector in Israel, the settlers can accept the verdict. For the next evacuation, when we’ll face terror of intimidation and a dramatic apocalyptic climate, we will know that those are only cynical and tactical steps intended to increase the price tag that the settlers demand from the government and nothing more. For them as well, Jews can evacuate Jews, everything is measured in price…