Israelis arrest extremist settler

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The Independent Online
Israeli soldiers and police yesterday arrested the extremist Rabbi Moshe Levinger and his wife Miriam before a planned memorial service for the man who committed the Hebron massacre. Settlers plan to commemorate Baruch Goldstein who a year ago shot dead 29 Palestinians as they worshipped in Hebron's al-Ibrahimi mosque.

Rabbi Levinger, a founder of the Israeli settler movement, after scuffles with the police during which his supporters threw stones and eggs, was removed from the house he has occupied in the centre of Hebron since 1979. The Deputy West Bank Police Chief, Natan Karmowski, said the degree of force used was "made necessary by the wild and violent behaviour of the settlers and our knowledge of their vile and disgraceful behaviour in the past".

Failure by the government to remove Rabbi Levinger and his 400 followers from Hebron after the massacre was a big factor in poisoning relations between Palestinians and Israelis last year. In 1991 Levinger served five months in prison for shooting dead a Palestinian bystander in Hebron's market after his car was stoned.

The police intended to arrest only Miriam Levinger, who for four years has ignored a summons for overturning the stalls of Palestinian street vendors. Her husband and five others were detained for resisting the police during what the settlers described as "preventive arrests" prior to today's service for Goldstein at the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba which Levinger helped found in 1968.

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier called the memorial for Goldstein "an incitement to murder" and the Environment Minister, Yossi Sarid, said: "There is no difference between Goldstein and a Hamas or Islamic Jihad murderer."

He said that if Israel demanded that the Palestinian Authority clamp down on supporters of suicide bomb attacks then it must also act against their Israeli equivalent.

Mr Rabin meets the PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, today at the Erez border crossing into Gaza to demand the detention of Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters in return for ending the ban on travel from the West Bank and Gaza.

It is doubtful, however, that Mr Arafat is in a position to offer the degree of co-operation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services which Mr Rabin is demanding. Other Palestinians say he is being too conciliatory to the Israelis.