- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

JERUSALEM Police have arrested six members of a Jewish terrorist cell in what they say was a plot to bomb a Muslim elementary school here, a plan that authorities say would have had devastating repercussions if successful.
The six were part of a militant movement that promotes Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
They are accused of attempting to plant a large homemade bomb outside a girls' elementary school in a predominantly Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem.
Charges have not yet been filed against the four prime suspects, who were arrested last month, nor against the two prominent Zionist extremists arrested on Monday.
However, all are being held in jail, and their access to lawyers is being severely restricted by the Israeli government.
Israeli authorities say that if the plan had succeeded, the damage to Israel's security would have been incalculable.
"If there was indeed an organization set to commit an act of terror, it would have harmed the very foundations of any democratic state," said Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Reuven Shmiya in a decision to remand two Zionists activists on Tuesday.
"There is no doubt that if the bombing had taken place, it would have caused grave damage to the security of this state."
On April 29, two settlers from a Jewish religious settlement southwest of Bethlehem were stopped by a predawn police patrol as they were unhitching a trailer from their car.
When they could not explain their presence in A-tur, an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem, officers searched the vehicle and found two fuel containers, large gas canisters and explosive charges.
The bomb's timer was set to detonate at 7:30 a.m. the time the girls would be lining up for roll call according to Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence service.
The two men apprehended outside the elementary school, Yarden Morag and Shlomo Dvir, have acknowledged the plot.
"Under interrogation they admitted their part in the incident during which they were caught," their attorney, Naftali Werzberger told Israel's Channel 10 television.
The Bat Ayin settlement where the two live has a history of trouble with its Arab neighbors.
Two other settlers were detained in connection with the bombing, Ofer Gamliel and Yosef Ben Baruch.
Police on Tuesday also arrested two prominent officials of Jewish extremist groups, including Noam Federman, a leader of the outlawed Jewish Kach movement.
It was not clear yesterday whether they are suspected of helping the other four acquire weapons, or whether they will be implicated in masterminding the foiled attack.
Kach was founded by an American, Meir Kahane, who was assassinated by an Egyptian national while on a speaking tour in the United States in 1990.
Like Mr. Kahane's well-known U.S.-based group, the Jewish Defense League, Kach espouses violence as a legitimate retaliation against Arab aggression or resistance.
Mr. Federman has been arrested dozens of times for extremist actions and threats. In the past, he has often been released without formal charges being filed.
He was convicted nearly 20 years ago of setting fire to a Jerusalem church.
Handcuffed and smiling, Mr. Federman told reporters outside the police station on Tuesday that he is being targeted by Shin Bet for his public support of Jewish activists.
Also arrested was Menashe Levinger, the son of Moshe Levinger, considered to be the patriarch of the radical settlement movement in Israel.
Mr. Levenger, who also lives in Bat Ayin, said he is being targeted because of his father's work.
The bomb plot sparked fears of the resurgence of a Jewish extremism that haunted Arab-Israeli peace efforts in the 1990s with its attacks on Palestinian civilians and shrines.
In 1995, Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin was assassinated by an extremist who wanted to halt the Oslo agreement that would give the West Bank known to settlers by the Old Testament names Judea and Sumaria to the Palestinians.
In 1994 Baruch Goldstein, an American-born radical Zionist, shot to death 29 Muslims while they were praying in Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs. Both Jews and Muslims share a common Biblical ancestor, Abraham.
Attacks by militant settlers have cost the settlers in public opinion and support, said Ehud Sprinzak, dean of the Lauder School of Government, Policy and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzylia.
"People who believe that what the army is doing is not enough don't even have the support of the settlers," Mr. Sprinzak said. "These stupid guys target civilians, it's an eye for an eye."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide