IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz' decision to name Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon the new GCO Central Command did not go over well with the Right and many in the settlement movement lamented it as a "miserable appointment."
Alon, who until two months ago served as commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, will replace current Major-General Avi Mizrahi in early 2012.
Alon is considered somewhat of a "red flag" among the settlers, as he has outspokenly denounced all "price tag" acts.
The tense relationship peaked in July when a group of radical settlers attacked him at the Tapuach Junction, stormed his vehicle and called the officer a "traitor." In a separate incident, a group of settlers arrived at his home, confronted him and called him a "Nazi."
When he first left his position as Judea and Samaria Division chief, one of the settlers' leaders was quoted as saying: "He should never have spoken against the settlers. It can only breed more hate. Good riddance."
Alon's appointment met a furious reaction within the Right. A senior member of the settlement movement told Ynet Friday that "Like rookies, we walked right into the trap set by that provocateur, Ehud Barak."
The defense minister, he added, "Knew that trying to evict Ramat Gilad will cause riots, just as it did, and it paved the way for Alon's nomination. The question is – is there a prime minister in Israel and if so – where was he?"
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union), on the other hand, said that it was far-right activists who were to blame for the appointment: "This handful of anarchists, who hate the State of Israel and the IDF, and have apparently been "dented" irrevocably by the disengagement, have somehow been able to gather misguided teens around them, offering them redemption via the torching of mosques.
"Their set 'price tag' is now being paid by all the residents in Judea and Samaria. Thanks to the group that raid the Ephraim Brigade Nitzan Alon has been named the Command's chief. Under different circumstances we may have been able to contest this nomination."
Nitzan Alon (L) and GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Another senior member of the Right said that "naming a man who is known for his radical opinions and who is responsible for the grave deterioration in IDF-settler relations raises serious questions about Barak's set of considerations."
Avraham Benyamin, spokesman for the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, expressed hope for an attitude change in Alon following the appointment: "We hope that in his next post Alon will make up for his offensive acts against the settler, by acting professional and without prejudice."
'A dark day'
Sources in the far-Right said that Alon's nomination was "the result of a well-planned move by Barak," stemming from "a predetermined decision to take harsh action against us… which is what (Barak) needs a man like Alon for.
"This is a dark time not only for the settlement movement but for all of Israel, since apparently a decision was made to create a rift and encourage a war between brothers."
As a top military officer, Alon has often denounced the settlers' "price tag" acts, insisting such violence must meet a harsh response.
"Censure isn't enough. Jewish terror must be dealt with," he said Thursday.
"When you burn a mosque or throw a fire bomb into a house it's an act of terror. Our job goes beyond censure – we have to deal with it. We're not efficient enough as a system. There are bottlenecks and failures, a difficulty to translate intelligence information and events that happen on the ground into evidence that will stand up in court," he added.
Alon spoke to "Bamahane" ("On the Base") – the IDF's weekly magazine, soon after his appointment.
Yair Altman contributed to this report
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