Israeli Radicals Break with Sharon over 'Road Map'

Article excerpt

Byline: Abraham Rabinovich, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

JERUSALEM - Members of Jewish extremist groups pose a growing threat to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Some extremists in Israel began calling Mr. Sharon a traitor after his acceptance this week of the U.S.-backed "road map" for Mideast peace that includes creation of a Palestinian state.

"We don't regard this as a legitimate government anymore," David Haivri, a young activist, told the newspaper Ma'ariv.

Similar angry sentiments were heard among extremists in the months before the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish terrorist who opposed Israeli troop withdrawals from the occupied territories.

The latest tensions come after Israel's acceptance of the U.S.-backed peace initiative, which at some point could involve the removal of many of the 225,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Settler leaders, fearful that evacuation of their communities will become Israel's price for peace, warned that they would resist any such attempts by all means short of open violence.

However, members of small but not inconsequential Jewish extremist groups have refused to rule out the use of arms against Israeli troops.

Israel has tightened security, calling in extra bodyguards to protect Cabinet ministers around the clock, the London Daily Telegraph reported, citing unnamed Israeli intelligence sources.

"No one is taking any chances now," one source told the newspaper.

Mr. Sharon also is being advised to cancel some personal appearances. The Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, is determined not to repeat the mistakes that allowed Palestinian gunmen to kill Rehavam Zeevi, the Israeli transport minister, in 2001, the newspaper said.

At the time, Mr. Zeevi reportedly had dismissed his bodyguards. This time, security measures are being tightened around ministers "whether they liked it or not," the source said.

Israeli settlement activity did not always operate in this charged atmosphere. After the 1967 Six-Day War, when the Arab world declined Israel's offer to return most of the land it captured in return for peace treaties, the left-wing Labor government began establishing settlements along strategic lines.

On the West Bank, this meant primarily settlements in the desert-like lower Jordan Valley to create a barrier against incursions across the Jordan River by Arab guerrillas or armies. …