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(photo credit: Va'ad Mityashvei HaShomron)
Samaria and Judea District Police Chief Cmdr. Haggai Dotan defended the use of plastic bullets against protesters, in a Sunday meeting of a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee subcommittee that dealt with the confrontation between settlers and security personnel at Gilad Farm in February.
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“I prefer that the police use plastic bullets and not batons, which can cause much greater damage,” said Dotan.
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Dotan told the subcommittee that in contrast to police claims during the previous hearing, held two weeks ago, regarding the number of bullets shot by police during the incident “the number of bullets shot stands, more or less, at 15, similar to the settlers’ claims.”
MKs expressed incredulity at the police narrative regarding the incident. They added that they were frustrated that not all the required security service representatives had appeared before them.
“This is the second time that police and IDF representatives have been invited to the committee to discuss the evacuation of the Gilad Farm, but they have not come despite receiving a personal invitation,” complained Judea and Samaria Subcommittee Chairman Ze’ev Elkin.
“We will refer the subject to the defense minister and to the public security minister and we will ask them what disciplinary steps they intend to take against officers who violated regulations.”
Elkin added that he thought that it was “strange that in the last hearing, the deputy commander of the Samaria and Judea Police District could not answer the committee’s questions regarding the evacuation, yet a few hours afterwards the same officer presented the police chief the final police report on the incident.”
Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria Chairman Danny Dayan said that plastic bullets were dangerous and that the Boston Police Department decided to completely stop using the same plastic rounds after a local reporter was killed after being struck by one.
“Ethically speaking,” Dayan added, “without any relation to the power of the weapons, it is not correct for police to direct weapons toward citizens. I am willing to lead the struggle against residents who violate the law, but in this case, the police, as has happened in recent weeks, attacked innocent people who did not offer any opposition.” Representatives of security forces at the meeting also revealed that there had been a clear operational instruction to wear knit caps, while during the previous meeting they had argued that the hats had been worn not for any operational reason, but due to the early morning cold.
But not all of the MKs present were impressed by the settlers’ claims against security forces.
Former deputy Shin Bet chief MK Gideon Ezra complained that “it is strange the settlers don’t complain to the police when crowd-dispersing equipment is used against Palestinians in Bil’in. It is important to remember that we don’t have another police force, and settler leaders need to speak out against those who do whatever they feel like doing.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee canceled a scheduled subcommittee hearing Sunday in protest of an alleged decision by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to prevent senior officers from attending the meeting.
The meeting of the Judea and Samaria Subcommittee, scheduled to discuss “Israel’s Planning in Light of the Fayyad Plan,” was canceled at the last minute, after Barak decided that the meeting’s subject was diplomatic, and thus should not involve IDF officers. Barak’s decision came after committee staffers had already received a detailed list of officers who were expected to attend the session.
Barak responded that he personally would attend the hearing, and asked the committee to reschedule the meeting for a date that he could attend.
But subcommittee chairman Elkin was not satisfied with Barak’s answer, and said that he would refer the case to the House Committee, where he would request a hearing regarding the obligation of government employees to participate in Knesset committee sessions.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.