An evil wind is blowing in the Israel Defense Forces. The messianic speech given by Samaria Brigade Commander Col. Roi Zweig, in a briefing to troops before they entered Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus to provide security while repair work was being done, should be keeping IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and all Israelis up at night.
“It was at this location that the land [of Israel] was promised to Abraham our patriarch, as it says [in Genesis], ‘Unto thy offspring will I give this land,’ and we are working with determination as did our forefathers, about whose exodus from Egypt on Passover, which we will celebrate three days from now, the Torah says, ‘On this very day.’ Not as thieves in the night, but as sons of kings. And so we are privileged to restore the honor of the land and the Jewish people,” Zweig said, as if he were Moses and not an IDF brigade commander.
And if this didn’t provide enough proof that the IDF is turning into the army of God, we also learned on Tuesday that the operation was carried out in violation of an order from the OC Central Command, due to pressure from opposition lawmakers and Yesha Council chairman Yossi Dagan.
Soldiers were sent to secure the repair work in the tomb after it was vandalized by Palestinians. The decision about the repairs was made in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, which agreed that the army would enter the site accompanied by a contractor whose company would make the internal repairs, while the PA would make the external repairs.
When the decision was made about the operation, OC Central Command commander Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs instructed the forces, including Zweig, that they would go to Nablus without any media coverage. Fuchs asked the council heads and the brigade commander not to publicize anything about the repair work until the last of the soldiers had returned to base. He emphasized that publicizing the work ahead of time could endanger soldiers’ lives.
But Zweig evidently answers to other authorities. Before the operation, he met with opposition MKs Orit Struk (Religious Zionism) and Yoav Kisch (Likud) and with Yesha Council head Dagan and then allowed journalists to enter the site. The operation was broadcast live. “The brigade commander just decided to thumb his nose at everyone,” one defense official said.
And so, the repair work, which had been coordinated with the PA, was turned into a political-military provocation thanks to the opposition and at the instigation of a settler leader. It was framed inside messianic religious rhetoric right in the middle of Ramadan and following a spate of terror attacks, when fears of a general escalation are running high.
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As a matter of fact, because the operation was publicized, hundreds of Palestinians converged on the site and clashes erupted between them and the soldiers. According to the Red Crescent, one Palestinian was killed and 18 were injured.
Zweig violated an order, surrendered to political pressure from MKs and settlers, and endangered people’s lives for no reason; he must be punished. The IDF chief of staff must conduct a thorough investigation and penalize him accordingly.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.