Strength is the power not to use it. There is no question that the IDF is strong enough to execute the expulsion plan. The question is whether it is strong enough not to carry it out.
Tzvi Ben GedalyahuThe author is a former reporter and senior copy editor for American and Canadian newspapers and currently is a leading journalist with Arutz Sheva as well as contriibuting to the Jerusalem Post and various American Jewish newspapers.
The IDF has no business helping police to evict Jews out of their homes. The government plan is purely a political and domestic issue, and does not involve the immediate defense of the country. Employing the IDF to carry out the expulsion prostitutes the IDF, which already has ordered soldiers to ostensibly defend the country by keeping civilians from approaching within 10 kilometers of the closed military zone of Gush Katif and northern Gaza. This week, it will be called on to actively help police evict people out of their homes.
A recent document on the IDF and disengagement, compiled by a team headed by Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven, the commander of the military colleges, states that the IDF's job in the expulsion does not include "tasks in the face of an enemy, for the purpose of saving lives in face of immediate danger."
Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel reported that, according to the document, "The Israel police is the appropriate entity for dealing with citizens of the state and specializes in effectively handling civilians who break the law. If the police are unable to evacuate all the residents of a settlement on their own, the IDF must help."
Clearly, the only reason Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has asked the IDF to get involved is because the police do not have enough manpower. The legal excuse justifying IDF participation, barring a High Court decision to the contrary, is supplied in the document, as reported by Harel. "IDF has been the sovereign power in the territories since they were occupied by Israel in 1967, and therefore, every military operation carried out in the territories is the army's responsibility."
The task forced document stated, "The IDF is not party to any political dispute; it is a state organization under the authority of the government. A commander may not voice or allude to solidarity with any particular political position."
That didn't seem to mean much to the new Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz. Sharon and Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz were afraid that Moshe Ya'alon, one of the most personally respected Chiefs of Staff in the IDF, would not fully cooperate on the expulsion plan, so they didn't extend his term of office. Sharon replaced him with his buddy, Dan Halutz, who questionably violated ethics by promptly stating that the expulsion, clearly a political policy, is "a national mission."
Involvement of the IDF in Halutz's "national mission" of expulsion endangers the IDF's future. According to a survey earlier this year, the IDF is the most respected institution in the country (and the political system, of course, is one of the least respected). The IDF now is degrading itself by placing its soldiers and officers in the demeaning dilemma of having to expel citizens from their homes, including those whose children died serving in the IDF and who were victims of Arab terror because the government did not allow the IDF to defend them.
The 24 pre-military academies (mechinot), including the secular ones, have publicly opposed the IDF's participation in the expulsion. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz should remember that 25 percent of soldiers being trained as officers are religious, mostly from the mechinot. Moshe Hagar, a reserve colonel and head of the mechinot organization, has stated that IDF participation is a tragic mistake that deepens and widens the rift in the country. "I personally know of many officers who are making sure their units do not participate in the expulsion" because the after-effects will be disastrous, he said. (Hagar and all the mechinot repeatedly have declared their thorough opposition to refusing orders.)
The rift in the country is far deeper and wider than the powers-that-be realize, due to their self-serving statements and outright lies by the media chorus. For example, the crowd of no less than 15,000 on the highway at Ofakim this month spontaneously laughed out loud at the report by a speaker that the television news program reported there were 4,000 people. Using the IDF as a para-police force only hardens the fissure. Soldiers and police linked arms on the shoulders of the highway at Ofakim, having been trained to prevent the violence they were educated to believe is the objective of opponents to the expulsion plan.
I literally cried when I talked to the soldiers at the hour of midnight, when 15,000 people, prevented from continuing the march, simply plopped down on the road and turned the highway into the country's largest camping ground (men on one side of the road and women on the other). None of those security forces could look me in the eye. They glanced at the ground and occasionally at each other for moral support against the pleas of men and women, and the songs of children, that there is a common bond among the people of Israel that supersedes the use of force.
I told the police they chose their occupation and they have to live with whatever they do. My words to the soldiers were different. It is not for them to refuse orders, but they must make it clear to their officers that the orders should be rescinded because the backing up of police forces during the expulsion will sink IDF morale. Army officers can show the lead to their men and explain to politicized superiors that the IDF will be weakened if it has to prove its power.
It should save its strength for the enemy.