2003 October 31 Friday
IDF Officers Challenge Israeli Policy Toward Palestinians

Israeli chief of staff Moshe Yaalon makes public the split between the IDF and other parts of the Israeli government on how to handle the West Bank and Gaza.

In remarks that suggest a dramatic split with the approach of the current government, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, said that crackdowns, curfews and roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were crippling the lives of innocent Palestinians and that the military's tactics were now threatening Israel's own interests.

The military chief directed most of his complaints at restrictions imposed on the West Bank four weeks ago, after a suicide bomber from the West Bank city of Jenin killed 21 people in a restaurant in the Israeli port of Haifa. Yaalon said the current curfews and travel restrictions, some of the tightest since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, were preventing Palestinians from carrying out critical olive and other agricultural harvests, hampering thousands of children from attending school, increasing hatred for Israel and strengthening terrorist organizations.

"In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interests," Nahum Barnea, columnist for the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper, quoted Yaalon as telling him.

The restrictions would not even be as tactically valuable if there was a more thorough separation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Finish the barrier between the West Bank and Israel and withdraw from the remote settlements and then Palestinian movement around the West Bank would not be as much of a concern. It would only matter when and if the Palestinians start shooting mortars or missiles at Israel.

The Shin Bet intelligence agency favors the current policy. So Ariel Sharon's government and Shin Bet are on one side and the Israeli military is on the other.

The barrier is turning out to be more expensive than expected.

The Finance Ministry estimated this week that the barrier would cost about $2.3 billion, more than three times the original estimate.

But is that because of the changes in path of the barrier that are making it longer? What is their cost per mile? Anyone know? The answer is pertinent to the question of how much it would cost to properly secure the southern border of the US with Mexico in order to stop the illegal alien influx.

Yaalon thinks a longer route for the fence would be harder to defend.

The general also was quoted as saying that the proposed route for a security fence that will cut deeply into the West Bank would require too many soldiers to defend, and that threats on the life of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had served only to make him more popular.

A lot of IDF officers think defending the remote settlements is a resource drain they can ill afford and that the remote settlements should be abandoned. This makes sense for the additional reason that doing so more thoroughly separates the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The deeper the barrier cuts into the West Bank the greater the resulting resentment will be among Palestinians. I really think that the Israelis should try to reduce the extent to which there is an "in your face" aspect to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Don't give them annoying reminders of the conflict. Don't give them symbols for their propaganda makers. Increase the odds that tempers could start to cool.

IDF officers are defending Yaalon's position.

Senior IDF officials said Yaalon was correct in raising the army's concern and dilemma regarding the Palestinian population and the affect of government policies. A senior officer said that "maybe in 1973 (on the eve of the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack that resulted in the Yom Kippur War) there were those who knew and were forced to keep quiet," Army Radio reported.

Meanwhile, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah are cooperating.

JERUSALEM The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with their operatives on the run, have increasingly forged a common front against Israel, and there are signs they are also being guided by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

The Israelis made a big mistake by signing the Oslo accord. Allowing the PLO to come back to the West Bank and Gaza allowed the PLO/PA to organize for the terrorist attacks that resulted in the very Israeli responses that Yaalon thinks are ultimately making the situation even worse. On top of that the construction of remote settlements was a strategically dumb move that stretches the IDF, requires disruption of Palestinian life in order to provide security, and provides meat for anti-Israeli propagandists.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 October 31 03:09 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis


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