Mofaz: IDF is unprepared for mass Palestinian protest

Army can deal with nonviolent demonstrations, chief of staff tells FADC; MK Wilf: IDF should be prepared to evacuate settlements.

Mofaz, Gantz, FADC_311 (photo credit: IDF )
Mofaz, Gantz, FADC_311
(photo credit: IDF )
The army is not prepared for possible mass Palestinian protests should the UN vote in favor of a Palestinian state in September, MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said on Sunday.
“I am not sure that the IDF has the correct response prepared for a mass demonstration of 60,000 people rushing toward a settlement,” Mofaz said, following a routine committee briefing from IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
RELATED:FM: UN vote on Palestinian statehood shouldn't be overblown“If the diplomatic process for September had been significant, most of the army’s preparations would not have been necessary,” he added.
MK Einat Wilf (Independence) suggested that the IDF “has to think about the possibility that it may have no choice but to evacuate settlements facing Palestinian demonstrations.”
The IDF chief of staff said that he does not think the Palestinians are “putting energy into organizing events that will cause a step backward from all of the accomplishments and prosperity they attained in the West Bank.
“At the same time, we cannot ignore that the Palestinians are also sensitive to everything that is happening around us in the Middle East. There is potential for a conflict and an expectation that thousands will have a quiet, nonviolent demonstration in areas of friction on the security barrier or settlements,” Gantz said. “The IDF cannot endanger the settlements in such a situation.”
Gantz said that he sees the IDF Central Command as the main front for September’s events, but that there may be developments in the north and south, as well.
The IDF has purchased large quantities of supplies to deal with such protests, including tear gas, stink bombs and rubber bullets, and is scouring Facebook for events that could constitute threats.
The army is also preparing for the possibility of a “surprise flotilla” or aerial flotilla, and hopes to overcome the incidents with minimal casualties “in order to maintain the legitimacy of continuing [its] actions,” head of IDF operations Col. Itzik Turgeman said.
Soldiers are receiving special training on how to deal with masses of nonviolent demonstrators and learning appropriate responses to disorderly conduct.
Gantz also said that he “has trouble seeing a situation in which the strengthening of military capabilities in Gaza will not lead us to another conflict.”
In reference to Turkey, Gantz explained that “the IDF will not stand in the state’s way in making a decision” about whether to apologize for last summer’s flotilla incident or not.
“We cannot ignore Turkey’s position and regional influence, as well as the ‘other Islam’ it represents,” he added.
Labor MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer said in response that “between nations there is no love, only interests, and between Israel and Turkey there are many shared interests.”
Gantz also discussed the army’s multi-year plan, saying the IDF is hoping to “gather as much intelligence as possible to get through the uncertain period that we are currently facing.”
In the coming years, the IDF plans to focus on cyber threats, as well as “all layers of active defense,” such as the Iron Dome missile defense system.
However, following calls by demonstrators in the past weeks to slash the defense budget in favor of welfare funds, Gantz warned that “cuts in the security budget will reduce our ability to respond.”
“We will present all of our needs to face the challenges, but will accept any decree,” he said.
At the same time, Gantz explained that the IDF “cannot give up on skill and our preparedness. We cannot compromise on this.”
He urged the committee to “take into consideration that we are in a period of instability and uncertainty, which has made threats more serious.”