Even Israel’s pro-settlement conservative government is unnerved by extremist settler gangs (Defense Minister Ehud Barak prefers to call them terrorists) who have attacked targets including mosques and Israel Defense Forces officers.

The young extremists are trying to pressure the government to leave intact their communities, which Israeli courts have found illegal, as the L.A. Times reports:

“The strategic goal is to try to frighten Israeli society to such a degree that it will withdraw from any possibility of a major removal of settlements in the future,” said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a security analyst at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies. “They’re saying, ‘For every two bricks the government tries to remove somewhere, we’ll go wild.'”

The militants think “the only way to prevent it from becoming a slippery slope toward wholesale evacuation is to put up a fight for every house or even a chicken coop,” Ben-Meir said. “Their tactic is to react to even the smallest of such moves with such violence so that eventually the army tells the government they can’t do it.”

Some settlers have taken to using the words “price tag” to sign their work. The phrase was found sprayed onto overturned headstones in a Palestinian graveyard.

All Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory are considered illegal by most countries, but the vast majority of them have at least been authorized by the Israeli government. About 4,000 settlers out of 300,000, according to the Times’ count, have built without permission.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government has authorized expanded settlement construction despite pleas from Israel’s closest ally, the United States, and Palestinian negotiators. Despite this, he may be forced to tear down a few settlements, or, more likely, discover a way to legitimize them. — PZS

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