It was February 1988, about two months after the first intifada erupted. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops in Gaza and the West Bank were confronted by complicated and violent encounters with Palestinian civilians. Chief of Staff Dan Shomron wrote a letter to IDF commanding officers reminding them to maintain “the principles of law, ethics, and discipline.” He also wrote that he expected the troops to display “assertiveness and decisiveness, along with self-control, restraint and sensitivity.” He concluded by emphasizing, “Force must not be used as a means of punishment, nor should it be used once the objective has been achieved. … The population must not be abused, shamed or humiliated, and no intentional damage should be caused to their property.”
Two months later, Shomron stunned politicians by declaring that the intifada could not be quelled by military means alone. His comments evoked harsh criticism from politicians on the right, but he nevertheless continued to state his view of the situation. In one notable instance, Shomron rejected a demand that the chief of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, be removed from his post for telling the Cabinet that the intifada could not be reined in by force. The person who demanded that Mitzna be fired was none other than Ariel Sharon, industry and trade minister and a senior member of Likud. Shomron stood up and said, “That’s my opinion too. Fire me if you want.” While this particular incident was unusually intense, Shomron came under regular fire from politicians back then, during a national unity government. Neither Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir from Likud nor Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin from the Labor Party stood out for having come to his defense.