The IOF officer in charge of the West Bank region, Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, recently told a group of the officers under his command that extremist settler activity could “set the West Bank ablaze”, according to this recent, un-bylined news report in Haaretz.
Mizrahi reportedly warned that, whereas the IOF feels it can maintain decent working cooperation with representatives of the big, “official” settler body, Yesha, settlers in some of the unauthorized settlement outposts
- “don’t believe in us at all as a state. They want something else, and when someone doesn’t know the limits anymore you don’t know where it will end up.”
Mizrahi said the army and the Palestinian security forces, trained in Jordan by Keith Dayton, an American general, have been cooperating, but that Israeli soldiers still need to know how to fight them if the need should arise.
“This is a trained, equipped, American-educated force,” Mizrahi said.
The report included this assessment from Mizrahi about the probability of a broad, violent Palestinian uprising in the West Bank:
- “I don’t think something will happen anytime soon, unless there’s a very serious incident on the Temple Mount or in the Cave of the Patriarchs,” he said [using the Jewish names for the principal Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron]. However, he said he was “very anxious” about an escalation being set off by settler violence.
“Most of the settlement movement is fine, very normal, but a mosque set on fire and another mosque set on fire adds up,” Mizrahi said.
Defense officials are concerned over a series of mosque burnings in the past six months, including a fire that destroyed books and prayer rugs in a mosque near Nablus that firefighters said earlier this month was caused by arson.
The brigade-wide training exercise at which Mizrahi spoke was for the Kfir Brigade. The report said that it
- focused on urban warfare – including the capture of a simulated Arab city – and pitted Israeli troops against Palestinian security forces.
Senior officers present at the exercise, the most extensive session the infantry brigade has undergone since it was founded just over four years ago, said Monday there were no indications that Israel would have to fight the security forces.
However, the army said it needs to be prepared for all eventualities.
… In the training exercise, three battalions went from house to house, where they faced Israel Defense Forces soldiers posing as members of the regular Palestinian security forces, Palestinian civilians or reporters.
Until now, soldiers serving in the brigade have been serving only in the West Bank, but Armored Corps commander Brig. Gen. Agai Yehezkel said the exercises would enable the brigade to fight on the Gaza and Lebanon fronts as well as in the West Bank, if necessary.
The Haaretz report made a point of noting, however, that it is not just the settlers who engage in illegal (and presumably, also, potentially destabilizing) violence against West Bank Palestinians: Kfir Brigade units engage in it, as well–
- It should be noted that the main perpetrators of crimes against Palestinians belong to the Kfir Brigade, according to statistics on Military Police investigations, which the Israel Defense Forces provided to the human rights organization Yesh Din.
The Military Police is investigating a variety of crimes in the territories, from the killing of Palestinians and the illegal use of firearms to abuse and plunder.
This news report has an odd structure. As noted above, it has no byline, at least in English. The part reporting Mizrahi’s remarks seems to have been written by someone present when he made them (though it could also have been ‘reported’ from a recorded version provided by a participant in the event other than the Haaretz writer.)
It was also significant that the writer made a point of putting the Kfir Brigade’s own record of unjustified violence onto the record there, as well.
But I think the most significant aspects of the report were to learn that the IDF is indeed training for how to confront the Dayton forces (or any other well-trained Arab force that is operating in a predominantly urban environment)… and to hear from this high-ranking Israeli general that he judges that the extremist settlers “don’t believe in us at all as a state.”
If this assessment of the extremist settlers is one that’s predominant in the high ranks of Israel’s security services, wouldn’t you expect to see them imploring the government to do something concrete– arrests, detentions, disarming– to shut down the capabilities of these potentially extremely destabilizing networks within the West Bank?
Well, perhaps you shouldn’t expect to “see” them arguing for this. But if the government were truly concerned about preserving the stability of the West Bank, you would expect to see it taking actions to suppress the capabilities of the extremists… We really haven’t seen that happening yet.