In 1995, the Shin Bet failed to protect the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli radical Yigal Amir. Shin Bet had discovered Amir's plans, and a Shin Bet agent was sent to monitor Amir, and reported that Amir was not a threat. Following the assassination, the Shabak director, Carmi Gillon, resigned preemptively. Later, the Shamgar Commission pointed to serious flaws in the personal security unit. Another source of embarrassment and criticism was the violent, provocative and inciting behavior of Avishai Raviv, an informer of the Shabak's Jewish Unit during the time leading up to the assassination. Later, Raviv was acquitted of the charges that he encouraged Yigal Amir to kill Yitzhak Rabin.
Dozens of settlers trapped and surrounded an Israel Defense Forces patrol jeep Wednesday night and beat the soldiers, IDF officers said on Thursday.
The incident is only the latest evidence of what officers serving in the West Bank describe as a sharp rise in tensions between soldiers and settlers over the last few weeks.
The vehicle, which was on a routine security patrol, was surrounded by settlers from outposts near the settlement of Shiloh. When the soldiers asked the settlers to let the jeep pass, one settler punched a soldier in the face.
The officers termed the incident "another crossing of a red line."
The soldiers soon summoned reinforcements, who detained one of the assailants. But the suspect later escaped into a nearby outpost.
"They should have handcuffed the assailant, but it's truly hard for the soldiers to make this mental switch," one IDF officer from the sector said following the army's preliminary inquiry into the incident. "Ultimately, these are Israeli citizens, whom the soldiers are there to protect."
But an officer from the force that was assaulted told the inquiry, "It's hard to now tell these soldiers who were attacked to continue protecting those people."
Officers serving in the West Bank say there has been a marked rise in tensions between soldiers and settlers in recent weeks. Even in September, when the IDF was busy preparing for a possible outbreak of Palestinian violence against the background of the Palestinian bid for UN recognition as a state, "the amount of time the security forces spent dealing with incidents involving Israeli citizens was greater than that devoted to coping with the Palestinians," one senior officer said.
In another incident a few weeks ago, cadets from an officers course who were sent to guard an outpost for a week said residents had threatened them with violence if they reported the transfer of shipping containers, which settlers use as improvised housing, to a nearby outpost.
The IDF is now considering ceasing to send soldiers to outposts for more than very brief stays.
Meanwhile, Palestinian residents of Qusra, a village near the Shiloh outposts, discovered Thursday morning that 150 olive and fig trees had been destroyed overnight. Villagers accused residents of the nearby outpost of Esh Kodesh.
The IDF confirmed the vandalism, but said it couldn't confirm that settlers were responsible.
Nevertheless, IDF data indicates that, over the last year, most incidents of settler-Palestinian violence in that area were indeed perpetrated by settlers, hitting a peak with last month's torching of the Qusra mosque.
There were at least 14 cases of vandalism by settlers against Qusra residents during that period.
Shin Bet sources say members of the extreme right are making an effort to deter defense officials whose duties include coming into contact with such elements. The extremists are also trying to intimidate senior law enforcement officials, the Shin Bet sources add.
The two most prominent incidents in the past year have been the smear campaign conducted against Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan and the demonstrations held against the Israel Defense Forces' Judea and Samaria Division commander, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon.
The phenomena, however, stretch far further than these two matters, the Shin Bet says. Among other incidents, for example, the full names of officials from the Shin Bet's Jewish Division have been published on Internet websites, and their wives and children have been harassed at work and school. Civil Administration officials involved in keeping tabs on building violations have also been harassed.
According to the Shin Bet, the right-wing extremists no longer appear to need a "trigger" to take action, while the targets of the violence are also widening - military vehicles at an IDF base near Ramallah have been vandalized, and threatening graffiti has been sprayed onto the apartment door of a left-wing activist. Attacks on Arabs and their property are carried out when the opportunity arises, the Shin Bet officials add.
Defense establishment sources believe that some of the "price tag" attacks are being carried out by well-known right-wingers. Some two months ago, 12 right-wing extremists were ordered to stay out of the West Bank on the grounds that some of them had been involved in the torching of mosques. Restraining orders were issued because authorities have yet to collect enough evidence to press charges. None of the activists have sought to overturn the orders through the High Court of Justice.
Shin Bet officials believe that the acts of violence are being carried out by a few dozen individuals who are being supported by a circle of a few hundred right-wing activists. The vast majority of the settlers reject such actions, Shin Bet officials say.