JERUSALEM – Israel's police minister warned Tuesday that Jewish extremists are plotting to assassinate leading politicians or security officials once the government starts removing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The comments by the minister, Tsahi Hanegbi (search), marked the starkest forecast yet about possible violence by militants.
Earlier this week, the head of the Shin Bet (search) security service set off a political storm when he said he was concerned about growing militancy among those opposed to the removal of settlements.
Settler leaders and rabbis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip accused the Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter of incitement. However, some prominent settlers and rabbis have said the evacuation of settlers is a crime, implying that violent resistance is justified.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) plans to remove some 8,000 settlers from their homes in 2005 — 7,500 from all of Gaza and about 500 from four small West Bank settlements. Sharon acknowledged Monday that he feels at risk.
Hanegbi told Israel TV's Channel Two on Tuesday that he was concerned about growing violence. "I have no doubt ... that there are people who have already decided that, when the time comes, they will save the people of Israel," he said. "They will assassinate the prime minister, a minister, an army official or a police official ... They don't always succeed and they don't always have the means to carry out the acts. But we are not lacking extremists."
In 1995, an ultranationalist Jew opposed to the transfer of land to the Palestinians assassinated then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (search).