A prominent hard-line rabbi said Tuesday that Israelis living in the West Bank can attack Israeli security forces if they use force against settlers while demolishing illegal buildings there.
Israeli police recently fired plastic-coated bullets at settlers who hurled rocks at them to try to prevent the demolition of several buildings in an unauthorized enclave in the West Bank.
The use of these bullets outraged settlers and their supporters, many of whom serve in the military themselves.
"When Jews .... come to demolish homes and they fire rubber bullets, you have to fire rubber bullets back," Rabbi Dov Wolpe told Army Radio. "If they come to beat you, then you have to beat them back."
Wolpe told the station that he personally would not fire a bullet because it could kill another Jew.
Israeli settlers sometimes carry out revenge attacks on Palestinian targets, either in retaliation to Palestinian violence or Israeli government actions against settlers. The attacks, known as "price tag" diplomacy, include vandalism, destruction of crops or physical attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the practice during a visit to the West Bank on Tuesday.
"There are no private militias here in Israel and you can't take the law into your own hands," he said.
The future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem _ captured areas Palestinians claim for their future state _ is one of the thorniest issues in peace negotiations. The latest round of talks collapsed over settlement construction in September.
On Tuesday, a group of settlers handed out threatening leaflets to European diplomats waiting in a line of cars at a checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
"You are standing on the holy land of the Jewish nation. The meddling of the American government and the European Union is putting your stay at risk. We will never make peace with Palestinian terrorists," said one of the leaflets, given to The Associated Press by a EU diplomat.
Two diplomats said they "feared for their lives" after the incident. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the media.
Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Ramallah.