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Why Israeli politicians are turning against the IDF

Senior IDF officers disagree with right-wing politicians, who call for strong measures against Palestinians.
Israel's Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot speaks at the annual Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner - RTX22X9A

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot is an experienced officer with a long list of achievements under his belt. Nevertheless, on Feb. 17, he found himself caught in a political crossfire. It happened soon after he gave a talk to a group of high school students in the town of Bat Yam. When asked about the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) procedures for opening fire on assailants, given the wave of terrorism that has been overwhelming Israel for the past few months, Eizenkot said, “Every IDF force out on a mission receives beforehand rules of engagement. The IDF cannot speak in slogans, such as 'if someone comes to kill you, arise to kill them first’ [Talmud, tractate Berakhot 58a]. … There have been cases in which a 13-year-old girl with scissors or a knife got into a confrontation with soldiers. I don't want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors.” The chief of staff emphasized that according to existing orders, soldiers are entitled to use force to eliminate threats.

The right wing of the political spectrum immediately attacked Eizenkot for this. The first to lash out was far-right Knesset member Betzalel Smotrich (HaBayit HaYehudi), followed by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud). Next came a statement from Minister of Transportation and Intelligence Yisrael Katz (Likud). Then Minister of Internal Affairs Gilad Erdan (Likud) made some comments, which were interpreted as criticism of the chief of staff.

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