Israeli settler fanatics vow to steal more Palestinian land as revenge for Jerusalem killings

Israel’s far-right settler movement has set itself on a renewed collision course with the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, declaring that last week’s massacre in a Jewish religious school had targeted them directly and vowing to build a new illegal outpost in the West Bank for every one of the killed students.

Amid a sense of spiralling crisis in Israeli and the Occupied Territories – which has stemmed from the impression that both Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are rudderless amid the climbing violence – Abbas performed yet another policy U-turn, calling for new talks with Israel after having earlier appeared to back away from peace talks.

The latest moves follow the killing on Thursday by a Palestinian gunmen of eight Jewish seminary students, the bloodiest attack in Israel in two years. Hamas, which had vowed to avenge the more than 125 Palestinians killed in a recent Gaza offensive by Israel, at first claimed responsibility, then backtracked.

Hamas’s claim came as the spokesman for Israel’s right-wing settlement movement said that he believed the attack on the religious college was aimed at his movement. Dani Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council, said yesterday that the attacker deliberately targeted Mercaz Herav yeshiva, known for its messianic, national religious Zionism. ‘Of course it wasn’t a coincidence or by chance,’ Dayan said.

Israel has been under increasing pressure from the United States, its main ally, to stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank but the government has struggled to curtail the expansion because the settlers wield considerable electoral power.

Olmert needs the religious right in his governing coalition to maintain his fragile grip on power.

The religious right opposes the US-backed Annapolis peace talks and this latest attack will further undermine Olmert’s authority. Dayan said the peace talks were ‘leading nowhere’. ‘They have raised expectations that everyone knows can’t be fulfilled by Olmert or Abbas,’ Dayan said. ‘In this part of the world, when your raise expectations and can’t fulfil them, you get violence.’

Source.

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