Far-right ministers and activists lambasted the IDF on Monday for conducting a drill that simulated a scenario of Israeli settlers kidnapping Palestinians in the West Bank.
The IDF Central Command carried out a comprehensive exercise on Monday aimed at ensuring the readiness and proficiency of its forces. Scheduled to conclude on Tuesday, the drill involved collaboration with Shin Bet officials specializing in nationalistic crimes.
The drill encompassed various scenarios, including terrorist infiltrations into settlements and shooting attacks on thoroughfares. It sparked criticism from local leaders for simulating a situation where Palestinians were kidnapped by Jews as a retaliatory act for an attack that killed an Israeli infant. Participants acting as kidnappers donned vests labeled "enemy force.”
Settler leaders, such as Yossi Dagan of the Samaria Regional Council, Shlomo Ne'eman of the Yesha and Gush Etzion Councils and Yisrael Gantz of the Binyamin Regional Council, strongly criticized the Central Command and urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to fire "whoever wrote such a drill at this time, rather than focusing on simulating terrorist attacks on Israeli settlements."
They argued that "anyone who could dismiss reservists for reciting Psalms in the Jenin mosque should certainly be able to dismiss the commander who planned an exercise that both tarnishes the settlement enterprise and endangers lives by wasting ammunition and manpower on a ludicrous scenario instead of preparing for a real one."
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir criticized the exercise as "a distortion and complete madness.”
“At a time when 136 Israeli hostages are held hostage by the Nazi-like Hamas, the [Central] Command chief orders an exercise that focuses on shedding settlers' blood and creating demonization. Settlers do not kidnap Arabs. They are not even suspected of planning anything close to this," he said, arguing that "the execution of such an exercise is full cooperation with the blood libel about 'settler violence'.”
Ben-Gvir called on Defense Minister Gallant "to immediately intervene in the matter and investigate the incident."
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also excoriated the execution of the exercise. "Someone in IDF high command has completely lost the plot, and sadly, this is not the first time,” he said.
“Portraying settlers as a potential enemy, when so many of them are serving on the front lines and paying a high price in blood, is a total loss of moral compass. Whoever is responsible cannot continue in their role and be entrusted with the lives and security of the settlers."
The IDF said in response that forces have practiced “more than 100 different scenarios, including extreme situations" but the army “did not simulate scenarios depicting settlers as the enemy, and the markings on the vests, intended to distinguish between participants in the exercise, are part of routine safety procedures. The use of such labels was a mistake, and we regret this. The IDF has a strong relationship with the settler community, working around the clock and in collaboration for their protection."