For years human rights organizations have pointed out the complicity
between the Israel Defense Forces command headquarters in the Occupied
Palestinian Territories and Israeli settlers, nurtured by policies
intended to facilitate the Judaization of the West Bank.
The army’s bond with the settlers leads to a policy of non-action as far as maintaining the law and the security of Palestinians, who are subject to constant violent harassment by their illegal neighbors.
While the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces – the Israeli name for their Army] and the Civil Administration (which deals with civilian conflicts between settlers and Palestinians), dismiss these charges as nonsense, Colonel Yuval Bazak, who finished his tenure in the West Bank, admits to a conflict of interest and complicity in many violations of the law.
Among them: The failure to dismantle illegal outposts, the failure to prevent settler violence against Palestinian civilians or to prosecute the settlers; and non-cooperation with the Israel Police. Yet Colonel Bazak faces no sanctions for these lapses.
As documented in a comprehensive report by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, the close bond between the settlers and the army has serious implications:
The army does not give sufficient support to police investigations, and thereby sometimes undermines them. Often the army refuses to provide the escort necessary to conduct investigations at the scene or inside the settlements.
The army does not deploy forces permanently in known friction areas, where a permanent presence could improve the situation immediately. The security constraints within which the IDF operates must not be used as an excuse not to protect the civilian population.
The soldiers on the ground are not aware of their law enforcement powers and obligations. Settlers have provoked and attacked Palestinian olive harvesters while soldiers on order to guard them did nothing to stop or detain the settlers until the police arrived.
The Civil Administration conducts a biased policy in favor of the settlers in cases of land disputes. The common practice is to demand that a Palestinian complainant present expensive measurement papers to prove his ownership. Under an unbiased policy, the settler suspected of trespassing on land that isn’t his should be the one required to present the necessary documents.
Ideological offenses, by definition, involve violence justified in the offender’s mind as a means to achieve larger, collective goals. It is difficult to fight such ideology-backed violence without taking harsh measures — which would be possible only by severing the ties between the IDF and the settlers.
The IDF must make law enforcement against settlers a policy backed by action. The defense minister must instruct the Central Command that law enforcement is a military objective and that commanders will be evaluated as much for their success in maintaining the law as for preventing terrorism.
Mooky Dagan is a member of the human rights organization Yesh Din’s steering committee.