Israeli Army, Police Form Agency to Prepare for Violence if Settlements Are Annexed

Yaniv Kubovich
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A demonstration in Tulkarm against Trump's plan, February 2020.
A demonstration in Tulkarm against Trump's plan, February 2020.Credit: AFP
Yaniv Kubovich

The defense establishment has begun preparing for escalating civil and military unrest should the state impose Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements in the wake of next week's election.

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The Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Shin Bet security service and other defense agencies, together with representatives from government ministries, have begun to establish a joint body to coordinate a unified response in the event of a major outbreak of violence in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and other fronts.

The scenarios the body is preparing for include major terror attacks in the West Bank and inside Israel; Palestinians breaking into West Bank settlements; large numbers of West Bank and Gazan Palestinians or Lebanese breaching Israel’s southeastern and northern borders, respectively, and entering the country; rocket fire from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon; mass marches near settlements; attempted infiltrations by sea and the blocking of major roads.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Ariel, February 24, 2020.Credit: AFP

According to intelligence assessments, Israeli Arabs would likely also demonstrate at major intersections. In addition, Jerusalem would become a main theater of escalation, with the possibility of terror attacks by East Jerusalem residents and attempts by Palestinians to barricade themselves on the Temple Mount.

However, these assessments hold that the violence probably wouldn’t last for more than a few weeks. The likelihood of a third intifada breaking out is considered low.

This new body, which will be overseen by an appointed cabinet minister, will be responsible for coordinating the division of labor among the various organizations in the event of unrest. It will address defense, intelligence and legal issues.

In general, the police will be responsible for preventing attacks inside Israel and the settlements; the army will be responsible for the rest of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and border areas. The Shin Bet will be responsible for intelligence.

The preparations are expected to cost hundreds of millions of shekels and will include holding joint exercises, buying necessary equipment and holding regular meetings to consider possible scenarios. 

Soldiers block Palestinian protesters near the settlement of Yitzhar, February 21, 2020.Credit: AP/ Majdi Mohammed

Over the past two years, several potentially explosive events have occurred, including the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and the release of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, but none of these brought West Bank Palestinians into the streets in large numbers.

After Trump issued his plan for the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would bring annexation of the settlements to the cabinet for immediate approval. In the end, however, he didn’t do so.

However, the defense establishment believes that annexing the settlements would be perceived as a more significant step, and may therefore spark violence.

In a similar move, the IDF and the police set up a similar coordination mechanism in 2011, in preparation for a possible large-scale eruption of violence following the United Nations vote on recognizing Palestine as a state.

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