Danny Efroni, Chief Military Advocate General (MAG), the man in charge of investigations conducted in the IDF – both interrogations of soldiers and questionings of hostile sources – spoke with Ynet after a series of incidents in the West Bank.
"IDF troops are present in the territories in order to protect the Palestinian population as well. It's outrageous that soldiers fail to intervene in the case of disturbances, regardless of who performs them," Efroni told Ynet, addressing recent settler violence, including settlers' vandalism of a jeep belonging to a Samaria Brigade Commander and the hurling of stones at a house in the village of Ourif, while IDF solders stood by without intervening.
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"Simply standing by when such events take place is something that shouldn't happen," the General said; "and in cases where it does happen, it should be looked into by the commanding officers."
A year ago, the government was authorized to try Jewish terror attacks as illegal unionizing, but there were no fewer settler attacks as a result. Efroni does not support a bill proposing that Jewish lawbreakers charged with crimes on nationalist grounds will be judged in military courts.
"A military judge can also release suspects," he said. "Each case needs to examined. In places where there are no police officers, it is expected from soldiers to enforce the law, detain activists until police forces arrive, and if possible – also gather evidence. But it's not always possible for soldiers to document disturbances while they take place. Overall, the past year has seen a decline in the number of price-tag incidents."
Another element that renders the West Bank a "no man's land" is the loose enforcement of illegal construction, which was harshly criticized by State Comptroller Joseph Shapiro in his report last summer.
Today, any West Bank resident, Palestinian or Jewish, can repeatedly rebuild a house that was destroyed by the Civil Administration due to illegal construction. In comparison, a resident of Ra'anana or Sakhnin will be indicted if trying to rebuild a house taht was demolished due to illegal constrcution.
According to Efroni, his office is working at increasing staff in hopes of properly enforcing West Bank illegal construction. "Today there are hundreds of cases of illegal construction on the Palestinian side and 200 on the Jewish side, but until something changes, there is no one to put these offenders to justice."
According to Efroni, Israeli forces are battling an "asymmetric war against terror groups working in populated areas.
"We are committed to international law and they are not. No military in the world operates in such a densely populated environment as the Gaza Strip, and the results of Operation Pillar of Defense speak for themselves... We tried to be as accurate as possible, but there was no case in which attacks during Operation Pillar of Defense were halted by lawyers.
"Operation Pillar of Defense" attacks in Gaza. (Photo: EPA)
"No arrest warrants against IDF officers were issued by other countries after Operation Pillar of Defense, and no lawsuits were filed."
Nevertheless, the General stressed he was "not certain we will be able to achieve the results we did in Pillar of Defense in a future war in the north. There is a massive number of rockets knowingly concealed in heavily populated areas."
He insisted that if battles indeed ensue, "the IDF will act according to international law", but that "whoever needs to take preventative measures and be careful – should do so right now."