IDF Officers, the Marked Enemies of the Settlements

Although the vast majority of settlers are law abiding, the machinations and provocations of Itamar Ben Gvir and his followers make them silent accomplices.

 Middle of last week, in Samaria: At knife-point, two Palestinians steal a car from a female driver who lives in a nearby settlement. In response, several dozen settlers go to the nearby junction, stop traffic and set ablaze a Palestinian field. An IDF and Border Police force arrives at the scene and is received with a few stones and paint bottles.

The incident was barely covered in the media. The radio newscasts quoted "a claim by military sources," which was followed by an immediate, almost shocked, denial by the spokesman of the settlement. Once more innocent people are being falsely accused. But a conversation with IDF soldiers who were on site and whose testimony appears reliable to me, suggests that the incident did indeed take place: Stones were thrown at the force (not even the settlers are denying the fact that the field was set on fire ). For the most part, the media ignored this incident.

Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon
Tal Cohen

The defense establishment, like the leadership of the Yesha Council of settlements, are in a constant process of giving in to the pressure of the extreme right. It is more or less from the same ideological setting that the McCarthyist campaign to silence Army Radio has emerged (a campaign in which activists from the secular right are also taking part ). The same ideological forces are behind the fierce defense of Rabbi Dov Lior as well as the attacks on Shai Nitzan, a senior figure in the State Attorney's Office. But nowhere is this campaign more efficient, systematic and ongoing than that being waged against IDF officers in the territories.

What was once the case with police officers in Hebron, who considered being stationed in the city an obstacle to any future chance for promotion, is now happening to the senior officers of Central Command and of the Judea and Samaria division. Yair Naveh, who is religious, and was GOC Central Command, was the first to be marked as enemy of the settlers. Similarly treated have been his replacement, Gadi Shamni, (to a lesser extent the current GOC Avi Mizrahi ), some brigade commanders, the division commander, Brig. Gen. Noam Tivon, and of late, his replacement, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon.

This systematic assault, with placards on Saturday at the synagogues, and demonstrations in front of the officers' homes, is receiving very minor and mumbled criticism from the Yesha Council. The chairman of the council, Dani Dayan, who can hardly be described as a fanatic, while decrying the comparison made between Alon and Adolf Eichmann, argued that the division commander "is prejudiced against the settlers."

Numerous accusations have been leveled at Alon, among them: a distorted quotation attributed to him following the murders at Itamar; his orders to prevent soldiers who support the outposts from having early information on an evacuation operation; the charge that he has a "leftist" world view. And so, the former commander of the Sayeret Matkal, who commanded many operations inside enemy territory, was transformed in a few weeks into the enemy of the nation.

It appears that even though the assault was directed at Alon, it is aimed more at his successor, Brig. Gen. Hagai Mordechai, who will take over in October. In view of the case of the deputy head of the Shin Bet, A., who in May was not selected to head the organization because of the campaign of slander against him by figures on the right (who did not appreciate his determination in carrying out his duties as the officer in charge of the Jewish department in the security agency ), deterrence has been achieved.

All those in the IDF, the police, and the Shin Bet know that whoever wants to protect himself should stay away from Samaria. If an officer is sent there, then he should do everything possible to avoid political complications. Assuming that he still wishes to advance, he should focus on embracing the setter leaders and tread lightly every time someone mentions the evacuation of outposts.

The vast majority of settlers are law abiding. The number of combat officers among them is higher than any other community in the population. But in light of the machinations and provocations of Itamar Ben Gvir and his followers, the settlers' continued silence, like that of their official leadership (which has become weaker since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip ), makes them, in practice, accomplices to the persecution.