Military Police commander Brig. Gen. Mickey Bar'el sent out invitations on Sunday to a ceremony marking the transfer of Megiddo Prison from the army to the Public Security Ministry. The prison holds security prisoners - Palestinians tried, convicted and sentenced in military proceedings - and MPs, from the standing army, conscripts and particularly reservists, have been their guards. In another week, Megiddo and its twin sister in the south, Ketziot, will have a new master: the Prison Service. In exchange, the Prison Service will get soldiers from the army to serve as guards in the context of military service in the police.
This is another blurring of the lines of the front in the division of labor between the police and the army. Both will be represented in the physical clash with the settlers and their supporters, who will try in the tens of thousands to prevent the withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank, with outright clashes and more wildcat outposts meant to exhaust the uniformed troops in an unending chase. The army will only have exclusivity in the fighting with the Palestinians who try to disrupt the withdrawal.
The commander of the police Southern District, Commander Uri Bar-Lev, a former commander of the IDF's Duvdevan undercover unit during the intifada, will be subordinate during the Gaza evacuation to Dan Harel, commander of the IDF's Southern Command. It is expected that the commander of Bar-Lev's main force will be the chief planner for the evacuation at police national headquarters, Deputy Commander Bentzi Sau, chief staff officer of the Border Police and one of the outstanding survivors of the Or Commission investigation into the events of October 20000. His involvement is proof of just how much the settlers of Gush Katif and northern Samaria owe the Arabs of Wadi Ara and the Galilee. Woe to the policeman who uses too much force, according to the scales of the next commission of inquiry.
During the October 2000 events, Sau, as a deputy commander and commander of the Border Police in the north, was ordered to oversee the Wadi Ara area, and he was the commander during the lengthy clash over the Umm al-Fahm junction. The forces under his command fired plastic-coated bullets and live fire unnecessarily and without warning, and although Sau "impressed the commission as an experienced and serious officer," the commission recommended that any promotions for him be postponed by four years. The Gaza evacuation could be considered a punishment, not a prize.
With some slight changes, it is possible to copy from what the Or Commission wrote about the relations between the state and police with Israel's Arabs, to the relations between the state, army and police with the settlers. Now the police can hide behind the Or report and use it to explain its weak response to the withdrawal opponents.
If tens of thousands are able to reach Gaza, the Sycamore Farm, Jerusalem, and throughout the West Bank with the intent to disrupt public order, there won't be enough police to put down the riot. Out of 26,000 policemen on the rolls, 18,000 are considered fit for duty, and the police will want to keep 11,000 in its stations in reserves. That leaves 7,000, of whom some 2,000 will be sent to Jerusalem, so only 5,000 will be left for the evacuation operation, with half of them Border Police. The other 2,500 police will come mostly from district patrols and police courses, including officer training courses that are being shortened to be finished by July, for the evacuation.
Even after they've been beefed up with Military Police troopers, there won't be enough troops to cope with the overwhelming numerical advantage of the withdrawal opponents, who will also have the initiative. The only way to come up with a balance between the number of lawbreakers and those meant to enforce the law will be to call up the Civil Guard, which numbers 70,000 volunteers, and recruiting new volunteers, who support the evacuation decision. Such a call-up would pose a real challenge to the majority of Israelis who are watching the escalating demonstrations without any ability to organize a counter force.
The police, which loves additions to its budget, manpower and vehicles, is hesitant about opening the gates of the Civil Guard to the supporters of the disengagement. It explains that volunteers are supposed to help with guard duties, protecting standards of living and enforcing traffic laws, but not imposing public order. The police command, meanwhile, is averse to sending civilians in police uniforms to clash with other civilians, including their neighbors, even though the volunteers' duties are identical to those of the professional police.
That aversion, however, is not a good enough reason to avoid using the Civil Guard for the special circumstances of the evacuation. The government can and must order the police to increase the ranks of the Civil Guard and send them to Gaza.
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