Shlomo Vaknin, head of security for the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council, told Arutz Sheva radio on Tuesday that the olive harvest by Arab farmers takes place with no disruption as long as extremist activists do not interfere. "The integration of left-wing activists and anarchists in the olive harvest causes charged impulses and needless confrontations," Vaknin said. In recognition of their efforts to disrupt the peaceful harvest and cause provocations, he added, left-wing activists are being kept away from certain harvest areas by IDF forces.
As proof of his point, Vaknin cites last year's harvest period, which went almost completely smoothly after the IDF prevented activists from sparking confrontations near Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. The residents of the Jewish communities, Vaknin claimed, behaved with great restraint in the face of provocations that occurred. "As far as I am concerned," Vaknin said, "the harvest concluded without any clashes between the two sides."
The IDF makes its security arrangements for the olive harvest period in complete coordination with the Judea and Samaria Jewish communities, with whom the ground rules for a peaceful harvest are determined, Vaknin explained. The IDF, the Civil Administration and the various security services assure Arab farmers access to their olive groves. For the most part, despite past instances of harvest time being used as an opportunity for pre-attack surveillance by terrorists, the IDF allows Arab farmers to collect their produce even in areas adjacent to many Jewish community perimeter fences. The objective of the defense establishment in such cases is to maintain, as much as possible, the daily life and routine of Arab farmers in Judea and Samaria.
According to Vaknin, the civilian security personnel in the Jewish communities are invited every year by IDF officials for discussions detailing clear rules of behavior during the olive harvest season. The issues raised are the exact borders of the Arab olive groves and what behavior is to be considered normal, and when there is a true security risk posed by the olive harvest.