IDF mo­bilises as fears overo­live­wars­grow

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

THE IDF is de­ploy­ing un­prece­dented forces in the West Bank to en­sure that this year’s olive har­vest can be car­ried out smoothly.

In past years, vi­o­lent clashes have bro­ken out be­tween set­tlers and Pales­tini­ans over the right to pick olives around some of the set­tle­ments.

This year, the De­fence Min­istry’s civil ad­min­is­tra­tion in the West Bank has mapped out the own­er­ship of all olive groves near set­tle­ments which are classified as “flash points”. A mo­bile bat­tal­ion-sized se­cu­rity team of Bor­der Po­lice and the Spe­cial Pa­trol Unit has been formed to se­cure the area.

The olive sea­son stretches be­tween Suc­cot and Chanu­cah, but the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion is allocating each Pales­tinian owner two or three days in which their groves are pro­tected. Some of the Pales­tini­ans have com­plained that this is too short, a com­plaint echoed by civil­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions help­ing out with the olive sea­son, chiefly Rab­bis for Hu­man Rights.

The civil ad­min­is­tra­tion has promised ad­di­tional “se­cure” days where the need arises.

“We have made sure that our force is very vis­i­ble near the set­tle­ments, so they can see we mean busi­ness,” said the head of the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion in the Nablus area, Lt Col Fares Atila. “So far, there have been no prob­lems.”

The Yitzhar set­tle­ment, which is sur­rounded on all sides by olive groves, has pre­vi­ously been a flash­point. Two weeks ago, the IDF parked two ar­moured trucks by the junc­tion lead­ing up to Yitzhar, sig­nalling, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cers, that any­one try­ing to dis­turb the olive-pick­ing would auto- mat­i­cally be ar­rested. Ma­jor Gen­eral Gadi Shamni, the com­man­der of Cen­tral Com­mand, also signed mil­i­tary or­ders clos­ing the olive groves to Is­raeli civil­ians for the next three months.

The set­tlers in the area re­acted with dis­dain. It­tai Zar, leader of the Hav­vat Gi­lad out­post, the first area in which the olive-pick­ing be­gan, said that “this se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion is without any pro­por­tion. If they had used all th­ese re­sources for our se­cu­rity, the mur­der of Jews could have been averted.”

Yossi Da­gan, spokesman of the Binyamin set­tlers’ com­mit­tee, said that “the olive sea­son has be­come high- sea­son for in­cit­ing against the set­tlers by Jewish and for­eign far-left ac­tivists, who are the real rea­son for the clashes. The hys­ter­i­cal se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion is to­tally un­nec­es­sary, in­stead 15 far­left and an­ar­chist ac­tivists should be re­moved from the area.”

It is not only dur­ing pick­ing sea­son that the olive groves are a point of con­tention. Over the last year, fol­low­ing ev­ery out­post evic­tion in the West Bank, set­tler groups ex­acted what they called “price tags” by set­ting Pales­tinian agri­cul­tural ar­eas alight. Ac­cord­ing to the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion, around 450 olive trees were dam­aged in th­ese events.

Umm Yasser Abu Kharmah, 73, picks olives near Ra­mal­lah this month

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