Israel Debates Calling Jewish Extremists 'Terrorists'

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Israel might classify the Israeli extremists who rioted on an army base earlier this week as "Jewish terrorists."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency government meeting on Wednesday to discuss the latest outbreak of violence allegedly perpetrated by young religious settlers.

Dozens of settlers infiltrated an Israeli army base in Samaria (the West Bank) overnight Monday and early Tuesday.

They slashed and burned tires, attacked a brigade commander, and threw stones and Molotov cocktails. They were apparently upset by rumors that the army might soon evacuate a Jewish outpost in Samaria.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu vowed to put an end to what he called "this appalling phenomenon."

The incident has riled Israelis from across the political spectrum. Just about every Israeli is connected in some way to the army and most have served in it.

At the meeting, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that violent right-wing groups should be classified as terrorist organizations.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also said in a radio interview on Wednesday that legally it might be possible to classify the "hilltop youth," a group of extremist young settlers, as a terrorist group.

He said that "as far as their behavior is concerned, there is no doubt that we are talking about terrorists."

Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer called the rioters a "gang of criminals" and said it was "too bad" that the army didn't arrest or shoot anyone.

Incidents like this tend to give all the 300,000 or so Israelis who live in communities in Judea and Samaria a black eye. Ben-Eliezer later said that most Israeli settlers are loyal to the law and serve in the Israeli army. 

He said they should be the "eyes and ears" of the Jewish state in the territories.

In an op-ed in the Israeli daily, Yisrael Hayom, Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council wrote that most of those living in Judea and Samaria relate to the lawbreakers as other Israelis.

"Hundreds of thousands of Israelis in Judea and Samaria relate to the anarchists exactly as do the rest of the [country's] citizens - as a dangerous group which must be dealt with immediately," Dayan said.

"The heads of the Yesha Council again condemn these acts," he said. "The IDF is us, and any harm to it is harm to us all."

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