Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who on Tuesday ended his stint as commander of the Israel Defense Forces' West Bank division, once again proved that not only is he a brave and decorated soldier, but he is also a man of conscience, who fears for the future of his society.
At the end of two difficult, exhausting years in a position that required daily friction with the settlers, Alon dared to state simply and clearly what many in the IDF and the defense establishment know, but refrain from saying: that the army hasn't been effective enough in blocking "price tag" attacks against Palestinians and their property, and that these acts are a form of terror.
The army, Alon warned, will be forced in the future to embark on an "escalating conflict with an extremist and growing fringe of Israeli society."
"Even today," he added, "an extremist minority, small in number but not in influence, could bring about a major escalation via acts that are dubbed 'price tag,' but amount to terrorism." These acts, "should not just be condemned for their inherent injustice and stupidity; they must be stopped, and their perpetrators arrested, more effectively than we have succeeded in doing thus far."
For taking this approach - which is not "political" or "leftist," as some on the right are claiming, but supremely statesmanlike - Alon has been viciously criticized by extremist settlers. MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) even called for his ouster a week ago. These extremists are presumably celebrating the fact that his tour of duty in the West Bank is over, and are trying to get him booted out of the army altogether.
But Alon isn't planning on going anywhere, which is a good thing. More than ever, the IDF needs good, moral people who do not capitulate to pressure and threats. In the current political climate, the burden on such people is particularly heavy, and they deserve all praise.
Among those who offered such praise was GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, who is also not one to scare easily, and who firmly supports Alon and officers like him. One hopes that men like these will succeed in keeping the West Bank from a gratuitous eruption, and Israel society from losing its humanity.
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