Peace Activists Visit West Bank
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Peace activists visited settler outposts in the West Bank on Friday, charging that the encampments are illegal and clashing with settlers who called the tour a provocation.
Peace Now activists and settlers pushed each other and some punches were thrown at a hilltop site three miles from the Itamar settlement south of the Palestinian city of Nablus, Israel radio said.
Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel, a large West Bank settlement, threatened to break peace activists’ arms and legs if they came back, Israel radio reported. Nachman said the Peace Now tours can set off anti-settler violence by the Palestinians.
Settlers have established several dozen hilltop posts in the West Bank in recent months, trying to make it difficult for any Israeli government to give the Palestinians enough land for their own state, and seeking to block implementation of an interim peace accord that called for Israel to hand over 11 percent more of the territory.
After taking office July 6, Prime Minister Ehud Barak said each outpost would be examined and those without proper permits would be taken down. He also pledged to carry out the Wye agreement, signed by his hard-line predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House in October.
Peace Now has been urging Barak’s government to remove the outposts, and Peace Now leader Mosi Raz rejected settler charges that the tour was a provocation.
``Those who come to look are not provoking,″ he said. ``Those who come here illegally, building illegal roads and settling here illegally inside an Israeli army firing range are the ones who are a provocation.″
Palestinians say all the settlements are illegal and must be removed. They have complained that Barak has not halted settlement expansion.