Gantz, MKs face off on West Bank open-fire rules

Liberman, Rivlin urge IDF to change guidelines; Chief of Staff Gantz says rules of engagement won't be changed.

IDF soldiers in Hebron 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
IDF soldiers in Hebron 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
The rules for opening fire in the West Bank will not be made less stringent, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
“I get the impression from conversations with people in the field that the spirit of command is that when there’s a conflict, it’s better to run away,” committee chairman Avigdor Liberman (Likud Beytenu), who lives in the West Bank, said. “This is a difficult feeling, but it’s the reality.”
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) expressed concerns that soldiers are left defenseless when facing Palestinian rioters.
“The whole world and citizens of Israel are exposed to photos of IDF soldiers standing helpless while facing rioting and attacks by Palestinians, and the IDF must give them the tools to deal with such situations,” Rivlin stated.
Seeing soldiers retreating when attacked by rioters requires the IDF to rethink its regulations, Rivlin added, because the current situation incites further violence.
“No one in the Knesset wants there to be a change of instructions that will lead to the unjust loss of many lives, not only from a moral standpoint, but because it can lead to an escalation,” Gantz responded. Soldiers are instructed to be determined, but not to pull the trigger, because doing so would be against Israeli interests, Gantz said.
As for the security in the West Bank, Gantz explained that there is an increase in grassroots terrorist activities.
The IDF chief of staff also mentioned criticism of OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon’s response to the attacks, saying he backs Alon, who is “dedicated to the task and has spent years dealing with this issue.”
“I don’t like the signs in buses criticizing Nitzan,” Gantz said. “I expect that the leaders in the Knesset will come out against these attacks.”
After the committee meeting, Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On took to Facebook to criticize those who seek to change the rules for opening fire.
“The fact that a group of extremist settlers opened a campaign to change the rules for opening fire in the occupied territories isn’t surprising,” she wrote. “It’s troubling, but not surprising. After all, we know this group of people thinks the only solution to violence is more violence.”
What is also disturbing, Gal- On added, is that settlers are not alone; they are supported by MKs who brought the campaign to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and to Gantz.
“The last thing we need in the ‘Wild West Bank’ occupied territories is to fuel the fires,” she wrote, “and the last thing we need in the Knesset is Wild West norms.”