What the Top Officers in the Territories Do

The head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, Brigadier General Dov Tzadka "breaks out in a rash" when he sees a Palestinian family trying to make its way across back roads because of the encirclement of cities by the IDF.

The head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, Brigadier General Dov Tzadka "breaks out in a rash" when he sees a Palestinian family trying to make its way across back roads because of the encirclement of cities by the IDF. He said so in an interview published in the December 28, 2001, edition of the Israel Defense Forces' weekly magazine Bamahaneh.

Sometimes, he said, he is seized by a sense of disgust. But there is no need for concern about Tzadka's well-being: the rash and the nasty feelings vanish quickly and he continues to fulfill his duties as head of the Israeli occupation mechanism in the territories without hesitation.

His direct commanding officer, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major General Amos Gilad, doesn't suffer even from a passing sense of disgust. Since assuming his new post, about half a year ago, he has been occupied with attacking the Palestinian Authority and its chairman.

These two senior officers, each in his own way and his own style, are being derelict in their duty and are violating the basic moral values. One is trying to have his cake and eat it too - to be both an occupier and enlightened - while the other shows no interest in the expressions of the occupation for which he is responsible.

The chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, last week took pride in the IDF's openness, as seen in the fact that its magazine published what Tzadka said; but as the commander-in-chief of Israel's armed forces in what is perhaps the darkest period in their history - in terms of trampling human rights and the brutal attitude toward the civilian population - he has no reason to be proud.

Brigadier General Tzadka said a few brave things but without genuine worth, because as long as he continues to serve in his post at a time when the IDF is taking inhuman measures on an unprecedented scale against the Palestinian population, what he said is no more than a display of self-righteousness. If the disgust he feels doesn't torment him to the point where it drives him to resign, it has no meaning. Resignation is the only contribution he can truly make to the struggle against that which fills him with disgust.

Major General Gilad does not suffer from unnecessary anguish and soul-searching. Since he assumed his post, last July, he has been engaged in attacking the Palestinian Authority and in providing forecasts about its responsibility for terrorism. He is against conducting negotiations under fire, just like Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; he declared that "the Palestinian Authority is behind every terrorist attack" and that it has taken a strategic decision to make use of terrorism and violence. In a meeting of the security cabinet, he called on Israel to "make order" in the territories, otherwise "we will turn into Afghanistan."

Gilad was a fearmonger in his previous post, too, as head of the research division in Military Intelligence. He warned, for example, that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon would affect its relations with Syria. He was wrong then, though he was right when - as is attributed to him - he predicted the eruption of the intifada.

But it's not Gilad's predictive ability that should be the central issue in his current position. True, we need not expect any moral self-questioning from an officer like Gilad, but what we can demand is that he at least do his duty - which means to present the frame of mind of the Palestinians. He is no longer in Military Intelligence, and his preoccupation with frightening predictions, instead of with the fate of the population for which he is responsible, constitutes a serious breach of trust.

His two predecessors, Danny Rothschild and Yaakov Orr, understood that their task was to reflect the true mood of the Palestinians in the discussions of the defense establishment, while also pressing the military to facilitate their day-to-day life. It was not by chance that Orr was called, albeit with exaggeration, the "IDF's ambassador to Palestine." Of course, we are not talking about representatives of human rights organizations: Rothschild and Orr were not motivated by moral considerations, but they understood that Israel's security interest necessitates an improvement in the Palestinians' living conditions, and not a worsening of their situation.

Whereas Gilad is apparently well-aware of the frame of mind among the current political leadership in Israel. Unlike his predecessors, he doesn't bother the defense establishment with too many demands to improve the life of the local residents. This behavior is all the more serious precisely at a time when great wrongs are being perpetrated in the territories, and the government and the army are headed by people who show no sensitivity toward this situation.

In these conditions it is crucial that there be someone to convey the voices of distress to the government and the defense establishment. This is not only a moral question. In a situation in which no one in the defense establishment today understands that what is bad for the Palestinians is also very bad for Israel, and that the severe restrictions being imposed on the Palestinian population are exacting and will continue to exact a very heavy security price, the coordinator, at least, should be a person who doesn't consider his principal mission as being to tarnish the Palestinians.

Two officers today bear a heavy responsibility for Israel's actions in the territories. Perhaps one day they will be called to account for those actions. If so, they will not be able to cite in their defense the interview that Tzadka gave to the army magazine or the warnings voiced by Gilad.