IDF prepared for worst, but 'uprising unlikely'

Dov Shefi, father of Hagay, who died in New York

Dov Shefi, father of Hagay, who died in New York

"We are preparing for the worst," said an officer in the IDF's Central Command this week, "but we honestly do not believe that there will be an escalation this month."

Tens of thousands of soldiers and police officers have undergone special training for dealing with mass non-violent demonstrations over the past three months and the army and police have stockpiled £13m worth of new riot-control gear, but most security officials in Israel believe that these measures will not be used.

The vote on unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations General Assembly later this month seems inevitable, but on the ground, the situation remains calm.

While large demonstrations are planned in West Bank cities, Palestinian Authority officials have assured their Israeli counterparts that they will not be allowed to get out of hand.

In an effort to ensure that outcome, senior Israeli figures are trying to lower expectations of violent clashes. Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino said in a speech this week: "I have instructed my subordinates to act tolerantly, sensitively and with restraint in order to prevent an escalation."

Human rights groups have argued that the security forces' policies towards Palestinian demonstrations are more aggressive than they admit. They have also objected to recent
collaboration between the IDF and the settlements' civilian defence teams.

Senior officers responded: "The training of the settlement teams is an annual exercise, as they are the first line of defence in the case of an attack on their homes, but that does not change our policy of co-ordination with the Palestinian security forces. So far, the PA has told us it will continue to maintain order in its areas, also after the UN vote, and we have no reason to disbelieve them.

"We have no interest in causing any unnecessary casualties, which will only make an escalation more likely."

    Last updated: 12:42pm, September 15 2011