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Israel's enemy within: A rising militancy from the Jewish settlements

Part 1: Jewish terror from the Biblical lands of Israel

The cause of the violence between extremist settlers and their own government has been, and promises to be, the forced removal of Jews from the settlements in the West Bank that the Israeli government considers an obstacle to a peace deal with the Palestinians. In August 2005, the government evacuated thousands of settlers from the Gaza Strip. Then, the settlers generally did not use violence against the soldiers who came to remove them, trying to persuade them with hugs and tears to refuse orders. It was a tactic that failed. Extremist settlers say they will never leave so easily again. Next time, they say, they will fight.

Often at the forefront of the radical wing of the contemporary settler movement are the children of American- and Israeli-born settlers who, unlike their pioneering parents, grew up in the occupied West Bank. These teenagers and 20-somethings feel viscerally attached to the land, and, in a huge shift from their parents’ generation, they are profoundly alienated from the secular Israeli state rather than umbilically attached to it.

“A lot of kids are becoming … no authority, just them and God out there on the hills,” said former Queens, New York, resident Yekutiel Ben Yaakov, 50, who has provided guard dogs for some of the young extremists who set up camp on the top of hills, in violation of Israeli law. “They don’t believe there’s any hope to correct the ills of Israel on a spiritual, on a political level, and they want to create something new, something different, something Jewish. They want to realize their right to self-determination.”

How far the young settlers of the West Bank are prepared to go to stay on what the rest of the world considers occupied land and a violation of international law is a question that is increasingly haunting a country with more than its fair share of enemies outside its borders to deal with, let alone an enemy within.

“The scope of the conflict will be much larger than it is today and than it was during the disengagement,” from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s internal intelligence service, told the Israeli cabinet in November during a discussion of future evacuations of settlements. “Our investigation found a very high willingness among this public to use violence — not just stones, but live weapons — in order to prevent or halt a diplomatic process.”

Read the rest of "Israel's enemy within":

Part 2: A community on the edge

Part 3: Palestinian militants gird for battle

Part 4: The "Hilltop Youth"

GlobalPost correspondent Matt McAllester has reported on Israel/Palestine since the late 1990s, when he was Middle East bureau chief for Newsday, and more recently as a contributing editor for Details magazine. The field reporting for this series was done over several weeks in the West Bank and Israel earlier this year.