IDF prepare for armed revolt scenario amid coronavirus

A vital element of such a revolt would be the concentration of the public's focus and blame on a particular social group, marked as a scapegoat, said the team.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visits Bnei Brak (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visits Bnei Brak
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A team from the National Security Council tasked with combating the coronavirus pandemic discussed two weeks ago an armed revolt scenario that may be caused by the deteriorating economic situation in Israel, Haaretz reported on Wednesday.

The 30-member team that brought together government officials, analysts and representatives from the IDF, the NSC, police and academia, reportedly discussed the circumstances that may lead to such a civil uprising alongside ways to suppress it. The team's recommendations, summarized in a document retrieved by Haaretz, discussed two possible scenarios, the first one being a "civil uprising" or "large-scale civil disobedience," with the second one being "distress that may lead to resentment or anger within the public."

The team claimed that distress and anger "will not lead to large-scale social phenomena on their own, at least in the short term." The second scenario, however, holds the potential to cause substantial "long-term damage to Israeli society and democracy."

A potential cause of a large-scale uprising, says the document, may be the loss of faith in the government and the political system, or the appearance that the government is losing control over the pandemic or the state. Other elements with a substantial role in causing a civil uprising may be economic struggle, mortgage and the loss of the ability, by some, to afford rent or even buy food. The possibility of a food shortage has also been discussed by the NSC-IDF team.

"Routine life in its entirety," from work to social life, said the document, "was suddenly cut off for the vast majority of the public." According to the team, "the end of the lockdown is yet to be known, and the public has been exposed to various estimates, ranging from several weeks to many months." This fact, says the team, may lead to such social tensions, stoking civil disobedience and resentment toward law enforcement.

According to the document retrieved by Haaretz, a vital element of such a revolt would be the concentration of the public's focus and blame on a particular social group, marked as a scapegoat. Such a scapegoat, says the team, could be Arabs, Ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews or foreigners, such as foreign workers, illegal immigrants and refugees.

The list of potential causes for a civil uprising in Israel discussed by the team are reportedly based on a survey conducted by the IDF's Home Front Command. According to Haaretz, some 88% of those surveyed said their lives have been heavily affected by the crisis, with 75% saying they only go out of their homes if absolutely necessary and 19% saying they do not go out at all.

"The consideration of public welfare was set aside in order to halt the outbreak," the document said. "With the extension of quarantine, it is needed to pay attention and allocate resources in order to address the causes of distress among the public." Without the allocation of resources, the document says, according to Haaretz, the public may rise up against the government.

The document reportedly recommended the recruitment of thousands of Israelis to work at hospitals, as well as the formation of community-based security units, similar to those in the Gaza Border Communities. The NSC also recommended the IDF participate in food distribution and night patrols.

One of the key recommendations of the document reportedly revolved around the creation of a unit responsible for "addressing the conscious plane" of the public, and reviewing the "state of the public," with IDF officers working in local authorities and NGOs addressing citizens who express "suspicious attitudes toward the authorities."

According to Haaretz, the document also recommended law enforcement take a more lenient approach toward the public, saying "less ammunition, more compassion." The NSC also recommended unarmed police visit senior citizens and distribute food in the evenings during the month of Ramadan, when Muslim Israelis break the fast.

Amid rising political tensions around the formation of the national unity government and the Supreme Court's potential intervention that may ban Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from heading a cabinet due to his corruption indictment, the latter said last week that an armed uprising may break out. "Crowds will take the streets," Netanyahu said, according to Israeli media. "There will be a call to boycott the election."

Despite the team's recommendations that police and the military take a lenient approach toward the public, law enforcement has displayed an extensive use of power in previous large-scale protests, primarily in the Arab Sector, as well as the 2016 and 2019 Ethiopian-Israeli protests in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

An emergency regulation created by Netanyahu in 1998 allowed law enforcement to use lethal force against civilians. The order, called "Kesem HaMangina," meaning the "allure of the melody," was used in October 2000 to suppress protests of Arab Israelis, leading to the deaths of 13 civilians and sparking the Second Intifada, according to a report by the Or Commission tasked with investigating the events.