The new government has not even been born, yet things are taking place in the country that are being chalked up to the likelihood that Israel is about to get the most right-wing coalition since the founding of the state.
According to an agreement reached late last week, Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir will serve as “national security minister,” a newly-named expanded version of the Public Security Ministry, that will also give him jurisdiction over the Judea and Samaria Border Police division that currently operates under the IDF Central Command.
Even before the agreement was reached, last week’s horrific double-bomb attack in Jerusalem that murdered two Israelis and left more than a dozen injured, was touted by some as a warning to Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and his prospective coalition partners.
Although terrorist attacks have never disappeared under any administration, the apparently coordinated attack was a clear escalation in Palestinian tactics against Israel.
Then on Friday, an IDF soldier stationed in Hebron was filmed beating a left-wing activist staging a protest. In another video from the same scene, a soldier told activists, “Ben-Gvir will make order here. You’ve lost it.”
When the activist asked if he was doing anything against the law, the soldier responded, “You do everything against the law. I decide what the law is, and you are acting against the law.”
“You do everything against the law. I decide what the law is, and you are acting against the law.”IDF soldier in Hebron
The soldiers were suspended. It wasn’t the first time that a hot-headed IDF soldier flouted his authority and let his personal views – whether they were inclined toward left-wing activists or hilltop youth – impact his duty.
However, these incidents taken collectively can’t be seen as just coincidental and unrelated to the political upheaval in the country.
Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned against the increased powers that Ben-Gvir will wield, saying, “a private army for Ben-Gvir in [the West Bank] is dangerous... and will create real security failures.”
“A private army for Ben-Gvir in [the West Bank] is dangerous... and will create real security failures.”Benny Gantz
Regarding the issue of Palestinian terrorism, Israel’s security apparatus knows what needs to be done. If terrorist groups are going to act out because they want to make a statement about what kind of government Israel installs, they will end up paying a dear price.
However, the incident in Hebron has potentially more far-reaching ramifications. The IDF needs to immediately act and unequivocally state that such behavior will not be tolerated.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi stated after the incident, “The soldiers’ behavior is severe, and the violence is not in keeping with the values of the IDF.”
That message needs to come from our political leaders as well, especially from Netanyahu and from possible defense minister Yoav Gallant, who until now, have been silent on the matter.
Perhaps they are unwilling to rile their new coalition partner so soon after signing an agreement with him. But by playing politics, they are putting the country’s welfare in jeopardy.
Spurred by the Hebron incident, there’s a growing sense that Ben-Gvir’s entrance into the government is going to unleash a tidal wave of lawlessness and retribution against anyone who doesn’t think like him and his not-insignificant number of followers and like-minded citizens.
The issue isn’t restricted only to soldiers aligning themselves with Ben-Gvir or his extreme right-wing views. Three Druze IDF soldiers are suspected of throwing an explosive device at a Palestinian house on Sunday night in apparent retribution for the kidnapping of teenager Tiran Ferro’s body last week in Jenin. Ferro was hospitalized in Jenin after a car crash, after which Palestinian gunmen stormed the hospital, disconnected him from life support, killing him and then abducting his body.
This is yet another example of soldiers seemingly taking matters into their own hands, a worrisome phenomenon that must be ended now. The IDF is the army of the people and made up of a cross section of the populace. It’s one of the few institutions in Israel that rises above partisanship and politics and it must remain that way.
Our political leaders need to speak up and be clear on the critical issue of keeping the IDF out of the political turmoil the country is going through. For now, their silence is deafening.