Palestinian protestors burn tires during clashes with Israeli security forces in Ramallah after a Palestinian was shot and killed
The statement by General Gadi Eizenkot, the Chief of General Staff of the Israeli army, in which he called on security forces not to be hasty in shooting at Palestinian children as long as they do not pose an immediate threat, was not a slip of the tongue or a reflection of his conscience, or even the “purity of arms” ethics of the army (as if occupation is an ethically-sound action). His statement actually stems from an in-depth study conducted by the army regarding the events that accompanied the youth-led uprising and attacks targeting Israelis in occupied Jerusalem, as well as other areas, including some inside Israel. Eizenkot’s can be added to other statements by his colleagues which have provoked some Israeli politicians to criticise what they call “the army’s interference in politics”.
Reports in the Israeli media appreciating the position expressed by Herzi Halevi, chief of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, in January are consistent with the line adopted by the army. He admitted that the occupation forces have exhausted all of their military measures in confronting the uprising. He also said that if political negotiations do not resume, matters will deteriorate further, as Fatah will join the operations against the occupation.
Before these statements were made, senior officials in the Civil Administration and the army’s Central District leadership said that the situation will not calm down in the near future, and the uprising could last a long time unless a political breakthrough is made. Without the latter, there will be more violence and chaos.
Eizenkot has apparently realised that the killing of Palestinian children and youth will not achieve the degree of deterrence expected by the Israeli government, which has given the army, police and armed civilians the political cover, legitimacy and even absolute freedom to kill Palestinians if they are suspected of threatening Israeli lives.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has expressed the government’s position most clearly; he supports the immediate killing of Palestinians if they dare to attack Israelis. In addition, the settler groups are not happy to hear anyone calling for caution before killing Palestinians, which they do in the form of field executions witnessed by Israeli officials and civilians. Any killing provokes a reaction, as can be seen by what happens in towns and villages energised by the shooting of a local child or youth.
The Israeli army has also realised its mistake in withholding the bodies of those killed in these attacks and the potential consequences of this. That is why the army no longer holds on to the bodies, which is contrary to the positions of Erdan and the Israeli police.
The truth is that the Israeli army feels the change in the temperature more than anyone else, and senses what developments may occur. The army has failed, despite all of its strength and measures taken, to put an end to this uprising and the attacks by the youth. It has realised that the issue is more than just an uprising fanned by incitement from the PA, as claimed by the Israeli media and politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hence, army officers are worried about the potential for escalation of the uprising if the Israeli reaction is limited to military means and punishments against the Palestinians.
These concerns are accompanied by fears that the uprising may become linked to the current wars and unrest across the region and the effect that this will have on Israel’s security. There is less certainty about how these will pan out, particularly in Syria, so Israel is monitoring the regional situation carefully. It has also resorted to bombing selected Syrian army targets and convoys of arms en route to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Israel does not know what may happen with the Syrian army if the Assad regime stays in power and is able to impose a settlement on its opponents. The army in Syria has been able to restore part of its capabilities during the war, and is receiving highly advanced weaponry, as well as other support, from Russia. Iran and Hezbollah are also in the frame, and we do not know what will happen ultimately to all of the Jihadist and Salafist groups.
Israel’s concerns, though, must not divert us from worrying about our youth and children who are being killed in cold blood. In this context, everyone must fulfil their duty to preserve the lives of the young people who are our future and the generation that will take over the Palestinian leadership.
Perhaps no one will be able to stop a young person who has already decided to die as a martyr, but there is a need to guide the people towards a more politically-centred and broad national struggle that embarrasses Israel and increases its isolation. This is the responsibility of the various political forces that are still weak in terms of influencing what is happening on the ground. They need to renew their activity, attract the youth and determine a realistic vision to bring about the desired change.
(Source / 26.02.2016)