“We weren’t taught to deal with 15-year-old Jewish rioters,” reserve soldiers said Wednesday after Jewish pyromania set Palestinian fields on fire near Yitzhar and they found themselves caught between the two sides helplessly a stationary target being cursed, pelted with stones, shoved and hit by Hilltop Youth members.
I have a few things to say about it: First of all, I’m tired of seeing social media, as well as some media outlets, going out of their way to demand that the Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and his likes condemn the incident. As if there is even a shred of benefit in such a condemnation.
To the same extent, I’ve had enough of hearing that it’s just a handful of errant weeds, a tiny minority which doesn’t reflect the general public in any way. In both cases, the condemnation—whether it arrives or not—and the denial of the magnitude of this phenomenon have been irrelevant for a long time now. What happened in Yitzhar this week was not an individual incident or an unusual event. It has been a daily matter for at least a decade now.
The required question, therefore, is how is it possible that IDF soldiers, who have been serving in the territories for the past 50 years, complain, almost in tears: “We didn’t know what the hell we should do in that situation, and we just prayed that we would be released from this crappy reserve service already.”
There seem to be only two answers to this question. The first is that perhaps there really is no reason for the soldiers to know what to do. The complaints and the whining are indeed justified, and so is the helplessness they demonstrated there. Soldiers shouldn’t have to know how to deal with 15-year-old Jewish rioters or, to be more accurate, 15- or 18- or 22-year-old Jewish psychos. That’s what the state is for. And the state has been delegated comprehensive powers, under the law. It paves roads, it is responsible for our health, it provides our children with an education, and it should also guarantee that our children—excuse me, our soldiers—won’t have to know what to do with these people. That’s what the police are for, that’s what the courts are for. And if needed—and it is needed—there is also a general security service with a Jewish division, and everyone in it should be enlisted to accomplish this mission.
The Shin Bet will target them, the police will arrest them and the court—in an unusual manner—won’t stall and drag the issue, but will properly deal with those psychos. Just like law-abiding states deal with hooligans, just like the State of Israel deals with Palestinians who throw stones, riot and set fields on fire.
A second option is a state decision that the soldiers will be the ones to do the dirty work. And in that case, after 50 years of sitting in the territories, after hundreds and maybe even thousands of such incidents and similar ones, the soldiers will be taught what to do too. They should get rid of the phrase “an impossible reality” every time such an encounter happens, replace it with “a very possible reality,” and handle this reality the way the army handles the challenges it faces.
And the IDF spokesman should stop telling us that “as part of the regiment’s preparations, the soldiers and officers exercised a variety of scenarios and dealt with them well and professionally”—as if the soldiers didn’t tell us a completely different story a moment ago. Instead, the problem should be defined and characterized, a combat doctrine should be formulated and training programs should be derived from it, focusing on situations and responses.
Why? Because the problem exists, because it’s mishandled, because today’s working method isn’t proving itself, because this farce must stop, because a civilized state which respects its book of laws cannot settle for conversations and agreements with a leadership that is unable to deal with the problem or has no desire to do so.
Look at the conversations between Shin Bet officials and Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg. That same rabbi, shortly afterwards, explained to his cheering students, in a lesson he delivered in Kfar Chabad, that it would be a shame for them to waste their precious time in jail. It would be better, of course, to burn a Palestinian olive grove or a brigade commander’s jeep, or both—they just have to act wisely, or as the rabbi put it, “For by wise guidance you wage your war.”
If the rabbi understands that, the State of Israel should definitely understand that.