This is a "New Middle East" -- but not in the way that we had hoped. When you leave the field empty of diplomacy now, with so many unstable characters roaming around -- like extremist Israeli settlers given to occasionally daubing "Muhammad is a Pig" on Muslim buildings in the West Bank and extremist Palestinians from groups like Islamic Jihad given to shooting Israeli civilians or lobbing mortars from Gaza onto Israeli towns -- you are really asking for trouble because many of the old firewalls are gone.
I agree with the general thought -- as someone who has been spit on by settlers in Hebron, I would agree that these are not refined people -- , though not the comparison. Blasphemous graffiti is repulsive, but it is not the same thing as, you know, killing people. On the other hand, we have to recognize a latent threat posed by extremist settlers: A few are capable of murder, and one of my main worries -- which I wrote about here -- is that someone one day is going to do something apocalyptically bad, in order to subvert the peace process. Not a worry now, because there is no peace process. In any case, Islamic Jihad (and its friends in Hamas, and in Tehran) is in a different moral category than the settlers.
UPDATE: Loyal Goldblog reader Ron Gordon writes: "This already happened: Yigal Amir assassinated PM Rabin in 1995. And I do believe there was a peace process on back then, which has since been subverted." True. What I'm worried about is something that would be even more destructive than the Rabin assassination (see link to my Bloomberg View column on this subject, above). But the point remains: The settlement movement itself is not a terrorist movement, as is Islamic Jihad.