Perhaps as many as 300 religious high school-aged boys gathered at Oz Zion – an
outpost at the entrance of Beit El – to spend a Shabbat engaging in collective
praying, Torah learning and singing.
We have nothing against uplifting
spiritual retreats in the heart of nature. Such events can be a formative
experience for youths.
Unfortunately, this particular retreat took place
in an area of Samaria designated by the IDF to be closed to civilians due to
military considerations. Organizers were well aware of this fact but
conveniently decided to ignore it. The youths who made their way to Oz Zion did
so on Shabbat eve.
Planners purposely and provocatively created an
untenable situation in which the IDF would be faced with the unsavory prospect
of beginning a forced evacuation of a large group of people that would
inevitably drag on into Shabbat.
Initially, that is precisely what Border
Police and the IDF began doing, despite knowing that the youths had all the
while planned to leave Oz Zion on Saturday night of their own free will. In
hindsight, the initial attempts at evacuation were unwise. And security forces
might have used excessive force, as claimed by the settler youth. But there was
absolutely no excuse for the rock throwing on the part of the settlers, which
left five Border Police officers lightly wounded, or the puncturing of the tires
of a Border Police vehicle.
Ultimately, reason prevailed and a rerun of
the scenes of bloody clashes witnessed at Amona was sagaciously avoided thanks
to the levelheaded leadership of IDF officers on the scene – many of whom
themselves products of religious-Zionist schooling who identify ideologically
with the settler youth – and the intervention of Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, chairman
of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittee on Judea and Samaria.
The IDF achieved the desired outcome – evacuation of the area – without the need
to resort to force that could have easily deteriorated into violence.
Saturday, after the youths evacuated the area, IDF bulldozers destroyed the
illegal structures in accordance with military orders.
In parallel, the
youths made a political statement calling for Jewish settlement of land adjacent
to Beit El, which Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently admitted would be part of
any future two-state solution with the Palestinians. Hopefully, Chief Rabbi of
Safed Shmuel Eliyahu and other rabbis who spent the Shabbat at Oz Zion made it
clear to the impressionable youths that while it is legitimate to peaceably
demonstrate in favor of Jewish settlements, expressions of violence against IDF
soldiers or Border Police troops is reprehensible and must be banned
unequivocally. The vast majority of young men who took part in the Shabbat will
themselves soon serve in the army. Many might become officers in combat units.
It is absolutely imperative that they learn to show respect for an institution
tasked with protecting Israelis from their many enemies.
officers serving in Judea and Samaria should avoid unnecessary clashes with
Oz Zion should serve as an example to IDF
officers of how to avoid violent confrontations while achieving security
objectives through dialogue and compromise.
Too many young
religious-Zionist men and women have become disenchanted with the IDF due to its
role in evacuating Jewish settlements, particularly during the 2005
disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.
The IDF should be
sensitive to this and take care to reduce to a minimum this conflict with a
highly patriotic, idealistic segment of the population. The IDF is, of course,
the final arbiter of security considerations in Judea and Samaria and elsewhere
in Israel. And if the IDF determines that places such as Oz Zion must remain a
restricted military zone, this decision must be respected.
But it is
preferable, when possible, to use intelligence and sensitivity when enforcing
IDF orders. What happened at Oz Zion is proof.