Don't shoot the settlers
The IDF's top brass, the political echelon and the law enforcement system are responsible for the fact that the only democracy in the Middle East fires at peace activists and imprisons conscientious objectors, while praising right-wing activists and exalting those who reject compromise.
IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon acted properly when he promised, at Gil Na'amati's hospital bedside, to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident in which Israeli soldiers shot at Israeli peace activists. But in order for the investigation to be truly thorough, the chief of staff should also direct the attention of the investigating officers to two key phrases in a document published only 10 days ago: "Yasser Arafat and his leadership are not partners to the two-state idea. Arafat and his leadership launched the intifada, and they prefer to keep the conflict going, on the assumption that terror and demography will lead to the disappearance of Israel as a Jewish state."
This document, whose contents are well-known to the chief of staff, also stated: "There is no Israeli consensus over this assessment, and especially over the prognosis it implies. This fact makes it harder to cope with terrorism from the standpoint of the legitimacy of the use of force and [efforts to] bring the conflict to an end."
These grave statements are taken from a transcript of Ya'alon's address at the start of the Herzliya Conference. Their gravity does not lie in their rejection of the ongoing substantive debate that is taking place among the rest of the leadership of the academic and intelligence communities with regard to the goals of the PLO leadership and the circumstances that led to the outbreak of the intifada. The sentence that crossed the red lines is the one that stated that all those Israelis who do not accept the chief of staff's diagnosis are sabotaging Israel's efforts to deal with terrorism.
How should a 20-year-old officer who heard these statements interpret the words of his supreme commander - that the sponsors of the Geneva Accord and former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon, who refuse to burn the chief of staff's power-oriented diskette into their brains, are thrusting a knife in his back and in the backs of his comrades in the unit? That leftists, who prefer to use a program that seeks out windows of opportunity for dialogue with Yasser Abed Rabbo, Sari Nusseibeh and Jibril Rajoub, constitute a danger to the public?
How should a corporal treat people demonstrating against the fence that splits Palestinian villages and families, when the chief of staff says that the fence was built solely to protect the lives of that soldier's own family and friends? How is the soldier to know that the order to fire on demonstrators who "make it harder to cope with terrorism," in the chief of staff's words, is completely illegal?
In a properly run country, the political echelon ought to show the chief of staff the error of his ways. Worryingly, however, not only did Ya'alon's words go right by his listeners, but his direct boss, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, is supporting him. At that same conference, which discussed Israel's strength and security without addressing the idee fixe of "there is no partner," Mofaz said: "There is no place in Israeli society for refusing to serve, breast-beating or weakening ourselves." What is a company commander to understand that society ought to do with those who refuse to serve, or with the crybabies and defeatists who have no place among us? Send them to jail? Destroy them?
What are Ya'alon's subordinates supposed to learn from the authorities' cooperation with the residents of the illegal settlement outposts? What is the lesson learned by a new recruit who read in the last State Comptroller's Report that a document issued by the IDF's civil administration in the West Bank reveals that hundreds of thousands of shekels were invested in the security of outposts that were established illegally, had no building permits and, in the case of one outpost, was even built on an IDF firing range? He will also discover that Minister Mofaz gave his blessing to moving caravans and stationing them at outposts whose legal basis for existence was never approved by the civil administration.
Following the shooting incident at Maskha, left-wing spokesmen were lured into complaining about the IDF's soft treatment of the residents of the illegal outposts. What do they want of the poor soldiers? They didn't choose to endanger their lives in defense of the opponents of a border. The failure must be sought in the IDF's top brass, the political echelon and the law enforcement system. They are responsible for the fact that the only democracy in the Middle East fires at peace activists and imprisons conscientious objectors, while praising right-wing activists and exalting those who reject compromise. But firing at settlers is also wrong. Not only would it be immoral, it would miss the mark.