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Much of Bosnia's ethnic cleansing, it will be recalled, was led by crisis committees, partially autonomous networks of local authorities and police. These had their parallel in Palestine in the form of Jewish settlers' regional councils and militias, which combined nationalist ideology with some military strength. The councils and militias initiated vigilante violence against Palestinians in the 1980s, but did not develop further. Although Israel permitted and even encouraged Jewish ethnic harassment, it blocked more extreme measures, just as Serbia had done within its core.

Israel created six regional councils in 1979 to serve the needs of West Bank and Gaza settlers, of which there were 250,000 (including in East Jerusalem) in 1988. The councils assumed an increasing number of responsibilities during the 1980s, levying taxes from Jews, legislating bylaws, and resolving minor inter-settler disputes. More importantly, perhaps, the councils took control of zoning procedures, working with the state to extend national control over Palestinian land. By the mid-1980s, veteran Israeli analyst Meron Benvinisti notes, "the councils, with the active assistance of the military government and the Israeli government," had "assumed quasi-governmental status."[1] In 1984, settlers created an umbrella organization known as Moetzet Yesha (the Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). Moetzet Yesha became a powerful political lobby, working directly with legislators to protect and promote settler interests. Although Moetzet Yesha covered the geographic area where Palestinians lived, it made no attempt to incorporate Palestinians, focusing exclusively on its Jewish constituency. In this it differed

from the Israeli state and military, both of which partially incorporated Palestinians as subordinate subjects. Had the West Bank and Gaza slipped from official Israeli rule, Palestinians would have confronted Moetzet Yesha without the protective shield of ghetto-style incorporation.

What were Moetzet Yesha's intentions vis-à-vis Palestinians? Many settlers were not religiously motivated, but their political bodies were often staffed by deeply committed members of Gush Emunim.[2] The Gush, it will be recalled, was a Jewish social movement dedicated to colonizing Greater Israel. Although its roster of full-time activists was limited, it could rapidly mobilize hundreds of thousands of supporters. More importantly, the movement enjoyed substantial economic, military, and political support from allies in the Israeli government, military, and civil service.[3] According to Lustick, some 30 to 35 percent of Israeli Jews sympathized with Gush ideology in the late 1980s, including its support for the "subjugation and expulsion" of Palestinians.[4] The Gush was a radicalizing force, spreading support for anti-Palestinian measures. Broadly speaking, Gush beliefs were that Jews were the chosen people, Palestinians had no national rights, the West Bank was promised to Jews by God, and that the Messiah would come only when Jews had settled Greater Israel and defeated Palestinian political challenges.[5] Infused with this thinking and divorced from administrative responsibilities for Palestinians, Moetzet Yesha was a potentially lethal force when it came to the West Bank's Arab population.

During the 1980s, a vocal minority of Gush activists supported ethnic cleansing. As noted previously, cabinet minister Yosef Shapira polled settler rabbinical leaders in 1987 and found that 62 percent favored using "any means at our disposal" to push "gentiles" from the Land of Israel. A few months later, government officials, right-wing intellectuals, Moetzet Yesha leaders, and Gush activists conducted a detailed discussion of Palestinian "population transfer."[6] As one Gush intellectual argued in 1987, "Transfer is not a dirty word," adding that "evacuation of the Land [of Israel] from its Arab residents is … a Zionist task of utmost importance." There was "no middle road," he warned.[7] Although there was no pro-transfer consensus within the Gush, its vision was broadly shaped by its view of Palestinians as "Amalekites," the Jews' biblical enemies.[8] Biblical passages speak of killing Amalekites and "blotting out" their memory, and some radical Gush activists drew on these statements to justify anti-Palestinian extremism. Others sympathized with the notion of Arab transfer but preferred to wait until a major war to carry out

the plan. In the meantime, they advocated granting Palestinians the biblical status of "guests" and using economic and administrative pressures to encourage their flight.

Settler Paramilitaries

Gush ideology grew increasingly important when Moetzet Yesha began to develop its own militia. The government had granted Jewish colonies the status of border settlements, authorizing them to receive military weapons for purposes of self-defense. The state also hired security coordinators to recruit and lead settler patrols and to work with nearby military units. During the 1980s, these militias extended their operations from settlement perimeters to fields, access roads, and Palestinian villages. Eventually, the forces were incorporated into the Israeli army as "territorial defense auxiliaries."[9] The southern West Bank Judea Company, for example, was given military-issue personnel carriers, weapons, and communications equipment. Its peacetime brief was to patrol locally, but in practice, this meant policing nearby Palestinian villages, earning the Judea Company a reputation for brutality.[10] Mindful of settler attitudes toward Palestinians, army commanders sent the militias to Lebanon rather than the West Bank when the Intifada began. In 1990, however, the government ordered the units back into Palestine following pressure from conservative legislators.[11] Occasionally, the militias engaged in vigilantism against Palestinians, sometimes in response to Palestinian stone throwing, but other times as a "deterrent." Jewish militias attacked Palestinians 384 times between 1980 and 1984, killing 23 persons and injuring 191.[12] The attacks were necessary, advocates said, because the Israeli military was not firmly committed to controlling Palestinians.[13] On the whole, settlers supported the vigilantes and the Israeli police did little to crack down.[14] Broad support for right-wing ideology among government elites and the Jewish-Israeli public was also helpful, as was a committed core of far-right nationalist radicals.[15]

Some militia members tried to go much further. In the early 1980s, nationalists created a clandestine "Jewish underground" and tried to assassinate Palestinian political leaders. Its members included Gush activists and former military officers, and it received tacit support from mainstream politicians and active-duty military officers.[16] Although the group was broken up by Israel's security services, clandestine anti-Palestinian violence remained a real possibility. In 1987, a leading Israeli

correspondent warned that given the opportunity, settler militias might try to "cause the flight of Arabs eastward"—that is, initiate ethnic cleansing.[17]

The Intifada triggered a new wave of militia attacks in 1988–89, killing thirty-two Palestinians.[18] As one settler leaflet explained, the Intifada had prompted Jewish militias to "initiate and organize various activities in reaction to Arab terrorism."[19] Alarmed by the militias' boldness, liberal Israeli legislators warned the government that Jewish settlers were undermining military authority in Palestine.[20] Settler forces were developing a "strong desire for independent activity," they said, carving up the West Bank into separate militia jurisdictions and creating command and control capacities. In the military, it seemed that some officers, especially those in middle echelons, supported settler radicalism.[21] Overall, however, the military was made uneasy by militia freelancing. The army was sovereign in Palestine, and it was unwilling to permit excessive militia violence.[22] Ethnic policing crowded out other alternatives, frustrating the militias and their government allies.

If Western powers had forced the Israeli army to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, however, much as it forced Serbian troops to leave Bosnia, the region's institutional environment would have changed. It was in this spirit that a group of militia activists began discussing the State of Judea, their term for an all-Jewish West Bank mini-state.

The State of Judea: An Aborted "Republika Srpska"?

Following the PLO's 1988 declaration of statehood, activists from Kach and Moetzet Yesha increasingly feared that the government might withdraw troops from Palestine under international pressure.[23] They resolved to prepare for this eventuality by laying the foundations of a Jewish West Bank mini-state, using Moetzet Yesha's administrative framework and militias as its base. Kach took the lead, raising funds to create shadow cabinet offices, postage stamps, identification cards, and passports. They were joined by some Gush Emunim activists, although many considered the group's plan unrealistic and extreme. Researcher Ilan Lagziel suggests that the scheme "received widespread support among the [Jewish] residents of Judea and Samaria [West Bank]" and was viewed by a committed group of Nablus-area settlers as a viable political alternative.[24] On January 18, 1989, hundreds of activists convened to declare their intention of creating a State of Judea if the Israeli army withdrew from the

West Bank. Organizers promised they were "not fighting against the State of Israel and the army," and that their sole intention was to take over the West Bank if the military pulled out. "We have the means, in terms of weapons, and our people have a military background," the organizers explained.[25] They never specified what steps they might take against West Bank Palestinians, but given Gush ideology, ethnic cleansing was a possibility.

Many observers viewed the State of Judea as a radical fringe phenomenon. Instead of dismissing the scheme as politically insignificant, however, I suggest regarding it as evidence of an alternative organizational form whose growth was stunted by the surrounding institutional setting. Like the 1991 Bosnian "Serbian autonomous regions" discussed in Chapter 3, Moetzet Yesha was a radical-nationalist municipal grouping with aspirations to statehood. The State of Judea never took on Bosnian proportions, however, because of the environment in which it operated. As long as the Israeli state had both juridical and empirical sovereignty over the West Bank, Jewish "crisis committee" type organizations could not flourish.

Radical Jewish nationalists existed in the Palestinian ghetto, just as extremist Serbian groups existed in the Serbian core. Sandžak and Kosovo experienced paramilitary radicalism, while Vojvodina had a nascent Serbian crisis committee. Those areas were firmly controlled by Serbia, however, and the state refused to tolerate nationalist freelancing on its territory. Israel, similarly, had Moetzet Yesha and its associated militias. And, although the Israeli army tolerated the militias' attempt to conduct ethnic harassment, it blocked serious efforts to create a more despotic repertoire of violence. With Palestine configured as a ghetto, ethnic cleansing was not a viable option.

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