Outgoing IDF commander condemns settler violence in the West Bank

General Yehuda Fox said that Jewish extremists were ‘adopting the ways of the enemy’


Outgoing head of the IDF Central Command Major General Yehuda Fox attends a replacement ceremony held at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem on July 8, 2024. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90

Israeli lawmakers and local leaders on Monday night harshly criticized the outgoing head of IDF Central Command, which includes the West Bank, after he accused Jewish residents of “adopting the ways of the enemy” and stressed the need for a “strong Palestinian Authority.”

Speaking at his retirement ceremony at Central Command headquarters in northern Jerusalem, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox lamented that "nationalist crime reared its head under the auspices of war. It sowed chaos and fear in Palestinian residents who did not pose any threat.

“Unfortunately, the local [settler] leadership, and the religious leadership for the most part, did not see the threat as we did. It is deterred and does not find the strength to openly oppose it. Even if the perpetrators are a minority, those who remain silent in the face of their crimes… thereby introduce criticism toward [all settlers],”

“This is not my Judaism. At least not the one I grew up with in my father and mother's house. This is not the way of the Torah. It is adopting the ways of the enemy.”

Of the PA, Fox said the army's “ability to fulfill its tasks also depends on the existence of a functioning and strong PA, with effective security mechanisms that maintain law and order.

"Concern for the lives of Palestinians ... is not just the responsibility of the commander of the Central Command by law, and not only a moral value, it also serves the security interest of the State of Israel.

“Israelis and Palestinians drive on the same roads and live side by side. Despite the enormous challenge at this time, we must find the right way to guarantee life-affirming civilian life,” he said.

Otzma Yehudit Party lawmaker Limor Son Har-Melech called Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox's remarks "alarming and dangerous." Military officials "must understand that their job is to protect Israeli citizens from our enemies, and not to persecute the loyal settlers or strengthen the PA," she said.

Samaria Regional Council leader Yossi Dagan denounced Fox's remarks as a "spit in the face" of fallen IDF troops from Judea and Samaria.

Multiple Israeli outlets cited an unnamed settler leader in the West Ban  as saying that Fox "behaved like a bull in a china shop today."

"An officer of his level should not create problems but promote solutions," he said of Fox, charging that "during his tenure, it sometimes seemed as if he was eager to fight marginalized youth and not terrorists."

Esti and Shalom Yaniv—whose two sons were murdered in a February 2023 terror attack in Huwara, Samaria—told Arutz 7 they were "deeply saddened that Gen. Fox, under whose command our children were killed in a murderous attack, decided to lash out at marginal acts that don't even represent a minority of West Bank residents.”

 Fox received praise from Labor Party leader Yair Golan and Labor lawmaker Gilad Kariv, as well as the left-wing Peace Now NGO.

"Thank you for the truth, Maj. Fox. You should listen to the words of the man who was responsible for the security of the Israelis in the West Bank," Peace now said in a Hebrew-language X post on Monday night.

Some of Netanyahu’s rightwing coalition lawmakers, as well as representatives of Jewish communities in the West Bank, boycotted the handover ceremony.

The West Bank has seen a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks in recent months, with shootings reaching their highest level since the Second Intifada of 2000-05 in 2023, according to official military data. It has also seen a rise in settler violence, including a violent riot in the Arab village of Huwara, which killed one Palestinian man and left hundreds wounded. 

Tensions reached a boiling point in February when troops were ordered to conduct a training exercise that included a scenario simulating the kidnapping of Arabs by Jewish settlers.

Fox's replacement, Maj. Gen. Bluth, previously served as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's military secretary from 2018 until 2021, when the premier was voted out.

He grew up in Neve Tzuf in the Binyamin region of the West Bank and studied at the Bnei David religious Zionist pre-military academy in the Eli settlement.

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