To Deter Trigger-happy Soldiers, Israel Must Exact a Price for Unjustified Killings

Haaretz Editorial
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Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at military headquarters, in June.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at military headquarters, in June.Credit: Moti Milrod
Haaretz Editorial

That Israel Defense Forces soldiers tend to be trigger-happy is an established fact. Even Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi could no longer ignore the numerous shootings of Palestinians by soldiers over the past three months, particularly in recent weeks. That’s why Kochavi met with Central Command senior officers on Sunday and asked them to take steps to reduce the shootings (as reported by Yaniv Kubovich on Tuesday).

The data is available to anyone interested, and certainly to the chief of staff. Since May, soldiers have shot to death more than 40 Palestinians in the West Bank, some of them individuals who were not involved in clashes with soldiers and who were killed by mistake, among them children. Kochavi’s meeting also followed increasing and justified criticism by senior defense officials of Central Command head Maj. Gen. Tomer Yadai and other senior officers, whose actions, these officials fear, could spark an escalation of violence in the West Bank.

LISTEN: Israeli settlers call the shots as Palestinian fatalities mount

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In the background of these killings is a worrisome, related phenomenon – the symbiosis between settlers and soldiers. Settlers fire on Palestinians with IDF-issue weapons in the presence of soldiers. The settlers who established the Evyatar outpost hours after the killing of Yehuda Guetta did so without the military putting up any resistance.

Yadai’s attitude of acceptance toward extremist settlers and his meetings with them send the wrong message to the Jewish hotheads on the one hand and the Palestinians on the other. Such a high-ranking officer should not be meeting with hilltop youths who have attacked IDF soldiers and commanders, not to mention Palestinians.

The numerous shootings of noncombatants and children, and other instances of gunfire that violate the rules of engagement, demonstrate a horrible “economic” truth: Palestinian lives are cheap. This is no surprise, because as a rule no one is held accountable for the deaths of Palestinians. This is how their lives become forfeit.

Kochavi’s request to the commanders he met that they calm things down is meaningless. His demand to include more senior officers in some of the military activities and to make sure more decisions are made by more senior officers won’t solve the problem, either.

The only way to deter soldiers from being quick on the trigger and prevent the continued wantonness is to raise the price to be paid by soldiers and their commanders, including the most senior ones, for the unjustified killing of Palestinians.

Therefore, if Kochavi really wants to calm things down, he must dismiss Yadai immediately. Only an act of such significance will convey the desired message: Contempt for human life has a price. Anything less is just talk.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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