IDF Transfer of Information to Settlers Is Nothing New

If the IDF doesn't leak the 'secret' of which heap of boards in the shape of a hut it plans to sic its bulldozers on, some MK or minister surely will. That's how it has always been, and that's how it will be in the future as well.

Who has better information: the Israel Defense Forces, which didn't know that a group of right-wing activists planned to cross the border into Jordan last month, or the band of thugs living on West Bank hilltops, who know when the IDF plans to destroy every last hut? The IDF and the Shin Bet security service, which have been unable to determine who is behind the torching of mosques, or those same Jewish terrorists, who get information directly from officers, soldiers and Knesset members about plans for IDF operations against illegal settlement outposts?

Even as senior politicians are declaring that a cyber attack is like a declaration of war or a terror attack, it turns out that an intelligence war is taking place under their very noses, using simple, traditional, unglamorous tools like cell phones, Excel spreadsheets and chatting with "sources."

But this actually isn't an intelligence war. Transfers of information from the IDF to the settlers are nothing new; they have accompanied the settlement enterprise from the outset. Nor should this be surprising in a reality where the IDF is viewed as an enemy, while the hilltop thugs are viewed merely as mischievous kids.

As long as the IDF boasts of how many religious Jews it has among its combat ranks, it shouldn't be surprised by the fact that religious Jews have an agenda. They either have friends in the settlements or are themselves are residents of settlements who won't lend a hand to house demolitions there, even if the houses were built illegally. For some, service in the IDF is conditional on not receiving orders that contradict the divine decrees transmitted by their rabbis. They don't view passing on information about plans to destroy their homes as a crime, but as a religious obligation.

Would the IDF be willing on this account to forgo the service of an entire community that it views as "the salt of the earth"? Would it be willing to exclude them from army service the way it does many Israeli Arabs?

After all, the exemption Israeli Arabs receive from IDF service rests in part on the desire not to put them into a situation in which they would have to fight their brothers across the border. Settlers similarly understand that IDF soldiers won't fight their brothers from the territories.

Moreover, anyone who views passing information to settlers as serious espionage, even treason, must in the same breath define that band of thugs as an enemy of the state. But as long as the prime minister refrains even from calling the torchers of mosques and uprooters of olive trees "terrorists," much less enemies of the state, the suspicions of "espionage" leveled against MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) are pathetic.

Elkin is no more of a criminal than those who have hitherto allowed these illegal buildings to go up - the same buildings about which he reported on plans to demolish, or not demolish. Indeed, he has more integrity than those who, for months and years, have been making a mockery of the High Court of Justice, which ordered these buildings destroyed, or than those who knew in advance that these buildings were slated to be built on privately-owned Palestinian land, or than those who portray the leaking of this "secret" information to the settlers as a blow to the IDF's most deeply-held secrets.

The one that should really be worried is the Yesha Council of settlements, which always knew how to gather reliable information on the IDF's plans quickly and effectively. Suddenly, under its nose, a parallel intelligence organization has sprung up, comprised of thugs who undermine the council's sovereignty. Until now, the council itself had been the official underminer of IDF sovereignty in the West Bank.

Elkin did not reveal state secrets. His main crime is that because of him, that game of winks and nods that has been conducted for years between the IDF and its governmental masters from both right and left on one hand, and the settlers on the other, has been revealed in all its nakedness. All he did was tear the remnants of the veil off the face of the reality that everyone already knew quite well: a reality in which the IDF, the sovereign power in the territories, was ordered to shoot itself in the foot.

The IDF has the unfortunate duty to both assume responsibility for the security of those hilltop thugs, allow them to build their illegal shacks, and also, when necessary, destroy those very same shacks - with a wink and a nod, of course. It must be stealthy and effective when it is allowed to use its sovereign power, but it knows this power is a sieve.

If the IDF doesn't leak the "secret" of which heap of boards in the shape of a hut it plans to sic its bulldozers on, some MK or minister surely will. That's how it has always been, and that's how it will be in the future as well.