IDF in rift with political right on anti-terror


The enduring wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens has led to a deepening rift between the Israeli security establishment and the right-wing section of the coalition.

While the army believes that it is facing a "limited uprising", and counsels moderation, a growing number of ministers and Knesset members are demanding harsher steps, such as deporting the families of attackers, more house demolitions and wider curfews.

Over the past three months, 23 Israelis have been killed in the attacks and over 100 Palestinians, most of them either while trying to murder Israelis or during violent protests.

Occasional lulls in the violence have not lasted for more than a couple of days and the continuing reports of stabbings, ramming attacks and shootings have led some coalition politicians to accuse the army of not working hard enough.

The army, along with the Defence Ministry's Civil Administration, which works with the Palestinian Authority and the Shin Bet security service, claim that its methods have been effective in curbing a more serious outbreak of violence.

The army counsels moderation, but some MKs want harsher steps

They also point to the fact that in over 100 attacks so far, only one was carried out by a West Bank Palestinian who had a permit to work in Israel. The security forces say that this proves that the policy of issuing more work permits is not a cause of the violence.

One senior government minister who supports the army's policies said last month that "without belittling the attacks, this is not an existential threat to Israel. We have much bigger concerns and as long as we can keep the West Bank relatively calm, we should do everything we can to keep it that way."

"We have seen in many sectors that the arrests and reinforcements have significantly reduced the level of violence," said one IDF field commander currently stationed with his unit in the West Bank.

"On the other hand, we try to allow ordinary life to carry on as much as possible because most of the local population is not involved in violence and as long as people can continue making a living, there will be an incentive to keep the peace."

On one side of the debate are officers in uniform who cannot state their positions in public and must therefore make their arguments in closed rooms and via anonymous briefings to the media.

The ministers who agree with the military's position, chiefly Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and, in some cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also prefer not to enter into a dispute with their right-wing colleagues and rarely state their views in public.

The right-wing politicians were enraged last week when the army's recommendations for further measures easing civilian life in the West Bank appeared in the media.

Mr Netanyahu staunchly denied the report that the government was mulling transferring additional areas in the West Bank to the PA.

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