IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said at this week’s Officers’ Course graduation that “whoever does not prevent attacks on Palestinian property cannot be an [Israeli military] officer.”
He was referring to the recent outburst of anger by Jewish residents of the Binyamin Region against Palestinian terrorism, and the right-wing public outcry after IDF forces cracked down on local Jews.
While it is indeed the job of Israeli security forces to prevent lawlessness, those isolated violent riots by Jewish “settlers” were the result of the IDF failing to prevent daily Palestinian attacks (most of them life-threatening) against local Jews. And that–protecting the citizens of Israel against outside threats–is the IDF’s primary job.
Yes, the IDF is operating in Samaria on a daily basis, and is doing outstanding work. But still local Jewish residents face daily attacks.
Why didn’t Halevi balance his remarks by saying no one can be an IDF officer if they are not dedicated to preventing stone-throwing attacks against Jewish motorists, or mob lynchings of Jewish shepherds?
Perhaps he takes for granted that all Israeli military officers already think this way. But the recent exposure of the deep rifts in Israeli society has revealed that many secular Israelis do not see as brothers the national religious Jews, particularly those “settlers” who live in the biblical heartland, and presumably feel no obligation to defend them.
As evidence of this phenomenon, Jewish settlers pointed to the recent behavior of Col. Eliav Elbaz, the IDF Binyamin Regional Brigade Commander. According to eyewitnesses, during one of the recent Palestinian rampages against Jewish residents of Binyamin, Elbaz threatened not the attackers, but Jewish cattle herders who were being attacked.
The owner of a small cattle farm in the Binyamin region told religious media that Elbaz threatened to shoot all of his cattle if they weren’t removed from the area. The cattle and the herders who tend to them are easy targets for Palestinian rioters, and no doubt the source of many headaches for the IDF. Still, local residents warned that by blaming the victim, the IDF commander was only encouraging Palestinian violence.
If national religious Jews need to be reminded that as officers they must be dedicated to preventing Jewish lawlessness, then secure Israelis need to also be reminded of their obligation to fight for all fellow Israelis, including the “messianic” settlers.
But the current messages coming from the Tel Aviv elite give the impression that Israel cares more for its enemies than for Jews residing in the so-called “West Bank.” In fact, some of them outright say as much.
Is Israel hopelessly divided? For all its successes, the reborn Jewish state seems determined to tear itself apart. And this is nothing new. Internal strife brought down Israel more than once in biblical times. Now, like then, the only remedy to this problem is turning to God.
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