The outgoing head of Southern Command, Major General Doron Almog, has an idea - to set up a "security zone" east of the Trans-Israel Highway to protect the road. In other, less sanitized words, Almog is suggesting that dozens of homes in Qalqilyah be demolished, hundreds of people be expelled and large tracts of the fields of innocent people be destroyed, as he has already done in Rafah.
The general's distorted idea appeared in an interview in Haaretz on Friday, and so far has not generated any special debate or opposition. Two days earlier, Almog warned against handing the security powers on a major north-south traffic artery in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. It's a "recipe for disaster, the chronicle of an explosion foretold," the senior officer said, raising fears about what would happen if Palestinians drive on the main road, which passes by the settlement of Kfar Darom. These comments, too, were taken in stride by the public and did not produce any debate or protest.
Imagine, if you will, that Major General Almog had put forward a different proposal: that instead of preventing the more than a million Palestinians who live in Gaza from using this road, the most vital one they have, he would have suggested the evacuation of Kfar Darom and another settlement, Netzarim, both of which were established deliberately to disrupt Palestinian life. The evacuation would make it possible to solve the problem of this road far more securely, fairly and logically.
It's not difficult to guess what furor such a proposal from a major general would have generated. "The Israel Defense Forces must keep out of politics," the public chorus would declaim in unison. The military career of the expounder of the idea would be cut short. The head of Southern Command is allowed to embitter the lives of the Palestinians without any limits, and no one will criticize him. More and more destruction, that's politically correct. But touch the settlers? That is forbidden.
This huge population, which has been imprisoned and locked in on all sides for years, is denied the use of its only main road solely because of the danger to a handful of settlers. The IDF is urging that this infuriating prohibition remain in effect. But what about the security dangers that spring precisely from this continuing maltreatment? Shouldn't the IDF issue warnings about them? Did Almog ever consider how many terrorists are produced by the acts of destruction that have been carried out under his command in Rafah or Khan Yunis, parts of which have been reduced to heaps of rubble? Isn't it his duty to caution about the security price this exacts?
In Israel, no proposal that entails destruction, uprooting, defoliation, deportation or killing of more and more Palestinians is considered "political." Proposals to strike at the Palestinians are always attributed to the security sphere, meaning that the IDF not only can, but must, raise them and act to implement them in all possible ways.
In contrast, a proposal to evacuate a settlement for pure security reasons - which is also self-evidently a function of the military level - is immediately considered a dangerous crossing of all the lines that separate what army officers are authorized to say from what lies outside their purview. Can anyone imagine a senior IDF officer proposing publicly the evacuation of Rafiah Yam or Dugit, which exact an outrageous security price and have claimed a terrible price in blood, too?
Yet why not? Isn't the officer betraying his trust by not proposing this? Is it possible that the head of Southern Command seriously thinks that Rafiah Yam, with its three families, contributes to Israel's security? After all, Almog and his colleagues are fully aware of the price exacted by these barren settlements, some of whose residents would leave if they could.
Similarly, proposals to strike at Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat are totally permissible. Two chiefs of staff, Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon, made this demand all the time, without anyone seeing anything wrong with it. Mofaz suggested deporting the Palestinian leader, and Ya'alon once actually proposed, in his inimitable style, "killing him softly" - and it was considered all right. But is it possible that in the entire General Staff there isn't one major general who thinks that evacuating any settlement would be good for security? And if there is one, why is he not brave enough to say so?
Anyone familiar with the situation in the top ranks of the IDF knows that never before has the General Staff spoken with such a uniform and self-abasing voice vis-a-vis the government. Ultimately, this will have serious security consequences. The argument that the IDF should stay out of politics is tainted with more than a little hypocrisy: Never have we had a more political General Staff, but it goes solely in one direction - and is appallingly unified.
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