Haaretz Editorial

A Blatantly Illegal Mission for the Army

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz must put an end to using the IDF for the benefit of illegal settlements.

Sometimes it seems there’s no limit to the corruption tainting the Israel Defense Forces’ operations in the settlements.

Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson reported on Tuesday that during Passover a group of reservists was assigned to guard homes at an illegal outpost known as “Booster,” adjacent to the settlement of Negohot. Not only has a demolition order been issued against all the temporary structures at the site, but during Passover the homes were empty anyway because their occupants had gone to their parents’ for the holiday. Thus the soldiers found themselves guarding illegal property instead of celebrating the holiday at home.

What’s more, it has emerged that one of the crucial missions of these soldiers during non-holiday periods is to escort residents of Negohot to the illegal outpost on Shabbat so that Booster residents will have enough men for a minyan ‏(prayer quorum‏) − and that this mission involves temporarily closing the area’s road to local Palestinians.

There is no security excuse that any Israeli citizen, let alone one called up for reserve duty, could accept which would justify such contempt for the law and the use of military service. The IDF can’t be a substitute for a security company, nor protect people who make up their own rules. There’s no reason for reserve soldiers to have to part with their families and abandon their businesses to guard mobile homes belonging to people who chose to erect them on land that isn’t theirs, in contravention of orders issued by the same army that must deal with this absurdity.

Aside from the moral and legal distortion involved in such missions, they generate deep uncertainty regarding the government’s priorities, from which the IDF soldiers’ missions are derived.

The IDF spokesman’s banal response − that “The reserve battalion in question is guarding an area in the sector and secures the Booster community as part of its annual work plan” − proves that this distortion is part of the norm. This isn’t the first time soldiers have been called up to secure empty structures or private equipment, and this wasn’t an “exceptional case” or the result of a commander’s bad judgment which can easily be corrected. This is the way it is.

Such missions are what lead many reservists to weigh whether to report for duty at all, and should outrage every citizen concerned about the defense budget. They demand a comprehensive and immediate investigation. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz must put an end to using the IDF for the benefit of illegal settlements.