IDF collecting settlers' weapons

Settlers say motivations 'political'; army also stops providing bulletproof windows for cars in West Bank.

Chabad militia 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Chabad militia 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After more than 25 years of holding onto his IDF-issued gun, Moshe Grosberg was surprised to learn from the head of security in Ofra, the Samarian settlement where he lives, that he had to give it up. "I haven't killed anyone with the weapon," said Grosberg, who notes that he lives close to Palestinian areas and needs the gun for protection when he walks or drives outside of the community. Still, like 50 others in Ofra, he handed in his gun last week. The measure is one of a number of changes that have settler leaders up in arms. In recent weeks, the IDF has collected army-issued weapons held by Israelis living in the West Bank, as well as caches of weapons held in storage in the settlements. It has also stopped providing bulletproof windows for settlers' cars. All of these measures harm the security of the settlers, said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. It was particularly dangerous, he said, that these moves come at the same time that the IDF removed some 50 roadblocks. In a letter of protest that he sent to the army, Dayan cited the collection of stored arms and individual IDF issued weapons as particularly risky. The move, he wrote, violated a promise he had received from the army. "It is imperative that we have arms," he told The Jerusalem Post. "It is a proven fact that on lots of occasions when settlers have had arms, it helped prevent attacks." He highlighted a number of incidents when that was true, including recent attacks in Shiloh and Kfar Etzion. An IDF spokesman insisted that the army was not harming the settlers' safety. He said that the volunteer rapid response teams in the settlements, as well as those appointed security personnel, were armed. The arms in question were not used and were kept in storehouses where they could be stolen, according to the spokesman. Further, he said, on numerous occasions Jews or Palestinians had stolen these weapons. The collected weapons have been moved to nearby army bases, where they are more secure and can be made available to the settlers if needed. The spokesman said settlers could apply for gun permits and purchase weapons like any other citizen. Grosberg told the Post that since giving up his weapon last week, he has considered buying one, but that it took time to do so. In the interim, he said, he had severely restricted his movements. Josh Adler, a member of a rapid response team in Efrat, dismissed the IDF claims. He said many weapons were also stolen from army bases, and that there was no such thing as unused arms. Such weapons, he said, were necessary to the defense of the communities and were used only by former combat soldiers. He accused the army of playing politics with the lives of the settlers.