A pipe bomb that exploded late Wednesday night outside the Jerusalem home of Zeev Sternhell, a Hebrew University professor, left him lightly wounded and created only a minor stir in a nation that routinely experiences violence on a much larger scale.
But Sternhell was noted for his impassioned critiques of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, once suggesting that Palestinians “would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements.” And the authorities found fliers near his home offering nearly $300,000 to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now, a left-wing Israeli advocacy group, leading them to suspect that militant Israeli settlers or their supporters were behind the attack.
If so, the bombing may be the latest sign that elements of Israel’s settler movement are resorting to extremist tactics to protect their homes in the occupied West Bank not only against Palestinians, but against Jews who some settlers argue are betraying them. Radical settlers say they are determined to show that their settlements and outposts cannot be dismantled, either by law or by force.
There have been bouts of settler violence for years, notably during the handover of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Now, though, the militants seem to have spawned a broader, more defined strategy of resistance designed to intimidate the state.
This aggressive doctrine, according to Akiva HaCohen, 24, who is considered to be one of its architects, calls on settlers and their supporters to respond “whenever, wherever and however” they wish to any attempt by the Israeli army or police to lay a finger on property in illegally built outposts slated by the government for removal. In settler circles the policy is called “price tag” or “mutual concern.”
Besides exacting a price for army and police actions, the policy also encourages settlers to avenge Palestinian acts of violence by taking the law into their own hands — an approach that has the potential to set the tinderbox of the West Bank ablaze.