The Israel Defense Forces has not done enough to successfully thwart "price tag" attacks against Palestinians and their property, said Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the outgoing IDF commander in the West Bank.
Alon said Tuesday the IDF might need at some point to engage in "an escalated confrontation against extremists who are expanding on the fringes of Israeli society." As things stand today, he said, "an extremist minority, marginal in number but not in influence, is liable to spark escalated violence by carrying out so-called 'price tag' attacks, which verge on terror." Alon spoke at a ceremony to mark the change in command at the Judea and Samaria Division. Alon is being replaced by Brig. Gen. Hagi Mordechai.
Alon said Tuesday that "these acts should not only be denounced, owing to their unjust foolishness, but they should also be prevented, and their perpetrators should be arrested in a manner more efficient than what has been achieved to date."
He added that "in a region where each day there are events that can become triggers of escalated violence, you have to be active and take the initiative to maintain stability."
"This goal is becoming harder to attain on the strategic level," he said. "Gaps in fundamental positions between ourselves and the Palestinians are becoming more acute. The Palestinian Authority's perception of Hamas as a joint enemy is liable to change."
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, IDF central commander, leveled criticism yesterday against "public figures" who took part in right-wing extremists' attacks against Alon, which included demonstrations in front of his home.
Mizrahi said Alon "showed the necessary degree of sensitivity and was able to maintain relations with the Jewish settlement movement, but he also acted in a firm way, without shortcuts."
"Brig. Gen. Alon absorbed much [hostility] due to this firmness, and I believe that this was unjust," Mizrahi said. "I think it is justifiable to denounce these public representatives, top figures in public service, who were swayed blindly by rumors and issued declarations that lacked any foundation in reality."
Mizrahi was apparently referring in part to MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ), who recently called for Alon's resignation; as well as to settler leaders who have attacked Alon in the past.
Mizrahi turned to Alon's mother, Yona, who attended the ceremony, and stated that he is "very sorry that you had to hear these abusive attacks against your son." Alon, who in the past commanded the elite Matkal commando unit, has not yet received a new assignment. Army sources indicate that he is likely to be promoted to the rank of major general.
Mizrahi previously served as commander of the GOC Northern Command's reserves division. During the Second Lebanon War he commanded the paratroopers battalion.
Yesterday a new IDF major general took on a new role: Maj. Gen. Uzi Moskowitz was appointed head of the General Staff's communications branch. Moskowitz previously served in command positions in the tanks corps.