Settler Leader Resigns Over Extremism

A high-profile Jewish settler leader resigned on Monday, January 11, protesting what he described as growing extremism among settlers’ rank and deafening silence over brutal settler attacks on Palestinians, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday, January 11.

"Our silence…will be harmful to us," Pinchas Wallerstein, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities in the West Bank (Yesha), said in his resignation letter.

Wallerstein, a leader in the main settler organization in the occupied lands for more than 30 years, cited the group’s failure to distance itself from Jewish extremists as a reason for his protest resignation.

He condemned failure to speak out against attacks on Palestinian villages whenever the Israeli government takes action against Jewish settlements.

Under a so-called "price tag" or "mutual concern" doctrine, settlers respond "whenever, wherever and however" they wish to any government attempt to remove illegally built outposts.

The policy also encourages settlers to vent their anger at innocent Palestinians leaving in the vicinity of such outposts.

In his letter, Wallerstein also criticized Yesha for failing to categorically reject protests by soldiers who defy government orders to evacuate wildcat settlements.

Israeli soldiers caused a stir last October when they staged a demonstration against the evacuation of settlements during a military swearing-in ceremony.

"It is our duty today to make sure the military isn’t involved in the politics of evacuation and demolition," Wallerstein wrote.

There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.

The international community considers all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.


Wallerstein’s resignation delighted right-wingers who though he was becoming too soft, reported Yediot Aharonot.

"This is another stage in the change of guards within Yesha’s leadership, which began following its failure in the disengagement," said Knesset Member Arieh Eldad, a leader of the National Union party.

The lawmaker suggested settlers need a new leadership to deal with any government plans to freeze settlements construction.

David Ha’Ivri, director of the Shomron Liaison Office, another settler group, was thrilled by Wallerstein’s resignation.

"[His] type of leadership totally failed in saving Gush Katif and the communities in northern Samaria that were demolished in the 2005 disengagement," he said, referring to Jewish settlements evacuated in the Gaza Strip.

"We must bring about a change of leadership. It is time to revolutionize the Yesha Council."

The Peace Now group welcomed the resignation, but for a different reason.

"Despite the attempt to portray him as a moderate man, Wallerstein is in fact one of the main initiators of illegal outposts in the territories, even on private Palestinian lands," said Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer.

"If Wallerstein is considered moderate, the settlers’ public has become much more extreme in an alarming manner."

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