IDF knows chances of surprising barricaded Gaza extremists are slim
Brigadier General (Res.) Oded Tyra has become a sought-after lecturer for Israel Defense Forces units in recent months. Tyra, until lately the president of the Manufacturers Association, commanded the 1982 evacuation of the Yamit region.
Although the degree and size of opposition to the upcoming pullout are far greater, much of the IDF's preparations are based on the lessons learned at Yamit. In his lectures, Tyra mentions the inability of the evacuating forces in Yamit to surprise opponents.
Each time the IDF planned an unconventional maneuver, the opponents got wind of it, apparently with the help of like-minded soldiers. In view of the changes in the IDF's makeup since then, Tyra believes the problem will be worse this time.
Officially, the army has declared a policy of "transparency and openness" on the evacuation. The settlers are not the enemy, senior officers constantly repeat, so we will announce our plans in advance.
Nevertheless, considering extreme scenarios of barricaded armed zealots, the army needs some room to maneuver. A tactical surprise, even if it lasts just minutes, could spare effort, even bloodshed. But as the evacuation date looms, that seems less possible. Sometimes the warning came from settlers' supporters among the evacuating forces themselves. Sometimes it came through policemen or the settlement security coordinators. The IDF, which considers these "part of the force" while fighting terrorism, has trouble making the distinction at a time when they are on the other side of the cause.
This was amply demonstrated by the failed operation to raid the extremist stronghold in the Maoz Hayam hotel in Neveh Dekalim this past Thursday.
While plans for the raid by police special forces were presented in restricted forums to the defense minister, chief of staff and police commissioner, settlers announced to the press that they knew the compound would be attacked at night.
Hundreds of supporters flowed in, along with media teams, so the plan was dropped. This should also be the basic assumption during the disengagement: Everything will leak - and at lightning speed.
While the IDF is immersed in studying the Kahanist bunker affair at Yamit, a similar problem has cropped up under its nose at Maoz Hayam. The defense and judicial systems responded perilously late to the outpost's establishment. Initial reports about the hotel, which appeared in the press a month ago, were practically dismissed.
That several known provocateurs were involved - Itamar Ben-Gvir, Baruch Marzel and Nadia Matar - ostensibly indicated it was a publicity ploy. Ben-Gvir and Marzel wouldn't fire on soldiers or endanger themselves, it was said; they value their lives too much.
Inaction was bolstered by legal opinion: The hotel is private property, and from the moment its owners agreed to rent the site, nothing can be done.
But warnings began to sound on the Saturday before last. When hotel residents "welcomed the Sabbath" Yitzhar-style, by beating several Palestinians in the Muassi area, the phenomenon could no longer be ignored.
The extreme right, which scorns the Yesha Council for West Bank and Gaza settlements and is perceived as an interloper even in Gush Katif, is hankering after a symbolism in the struggle, which the hotel residents are happy to provide. The media attention drives the zealots to more violent acts. A raid was decided on, ostensibly to arrest suspects in the Muassi assault; should real opposition develop, it would provide a premise for arresting most residents and eliminating the problem before the pullout.
The raid was suspended because of the leak, but General Staff sources insist it will go ahead at an opportune moment. It was Marzel who underscored the defense establishment's dilemma: We're just waiting for the raid, he said Friday: "The moment it happens, we'll manage to ignite the whole country."