» Israel's Next War?
They do not believe in peace talks. They do not want to share the land. They are well armed and are carrying out increasingly violent attacks, even targeting innocent civilians. They are members of Israel's militant far right, and they are threatening to become Israel's next big problem.
In "Israel's Next War?" airing Tuesday, April 5, at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE goes deep inside the world of militant Jewish radicals who pose a grave new threat to Israeli security and, potentially, to the region. "The dream of these extremists"—to blow up the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, one of the most important holy sites in the Muslim world—"should give us sleepless nights," says former Israeli Security Chief Avi Dichter. "Jewish terror is liable to create a serious strategic threat that will turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a conflict between thirteen million Jews and a billion Muslims all over the world."
In "Israel's Next War?" FRONTLINE profiles two young men—Shlomo Dvir and Yarden Morag—who planned to set off a bomb at a Palestinian girls school just as hundreds of young students arrived in the morning. The timing was carefully designed to harm as many children as possible. "It was my idea," says Shlomo Dvir in an exclusive interview from an Israeli prison. "Whoever gets hurt, gets hurt." Most Israelis reacted with shock and horror when Dvir and Morag's plan was revealed—but a small minority refused to condemn them.
Dvir and Morag's bomb never went off—an Israeli policeman lucked onto their plot at the last minute—and the investigation led Israeli security officials to an underground of other radical settlers who helped with this attack and others. These settlers are part of a much larger group of far rightists in Israel—the Kahanists, who are members of the outlawed party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who rose to prominence in the 1980s with his message that nothing short of the expulsion of all Arabs from Jewish land will guarantee Israeli security.
"There are certain conditions, according to Jewish law, under which non-Jews may live here," says Shmuel ben Yishai, an Israeli settler in Hebron. "This doesn't apply to the Arabs, they don't fit the category. They have to get the hell out!"
"At a time when most in Israel are hoping for a fresh opportunity for peace with the Palestinians, a rift is developing between the extremists and the rest of the Israeli people," says producer Dan Setton. "And that rift will only grow if the extremists find a wider audience for their message." Right now, while some among the settlers might be sympathetic, relatively few are willing to act. Still, the security services are worried.
"The phenomena that we're talking about are not on the fringe," says Yitzhak Dar, head of the Jewish section of the Israeli security service. "The glue that holds them together is ideology. It's a very, very dangerous ideology....When they try to put it into action, through the murder of the prime minister, through the murder of the Arabs, through the massacre at the Hebron Mosque, it's the beginning of the end of a system that can defend itself."
Among the extremists, there is a feeling of persecution by the Israeli government.
"I think the government is mainly afraid of us because we represent an alternative," says Noam Federman, a prominent Kahanist who trained some of the school bomb plotters on how to withstand interrogation from Israeli police. "We basically explain the Arab problem as Rabbi Kahane saw it. We say this should be a Jewish country and I think that's what threatens them."
Mike Guzofsky, a transplanted New Yorker and leading Kahanist, is convinced that the very people who are now painted as extremists will one day be viewed as heroes. "I think the day will come when the secret service and the government will look for Jews who are willing to risk their lives and go into Arab villages and kick them out, kill them... and we have thousands of civilians with the military know-how to instigate a mega-attack against Arabs."
"Israel's Next War?" is a SET Productions film for WGBH/FRONTLINE.
The producer and director is Dan Setton. The executive producer for WGBH is Zvi Dor-Ner.
FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS.
Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers.
FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
The executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
FRONTLINE XXIII/April 2005