Brigadier General Hagai Mordechai was appointed on Tuesday commander of the IDF Judea and Samaria Division in a special ceremony.
The ceremony was held at the division headquarters in Beit El, and conducted by GOC Central Command, Major General Avi Mizrahi. Brig.-Gen Mordechai is replacing Brigadier General Nitzan Alon who held the position for over two years.
Brig.-Gen. Hagai Mordechai said during the ceremony, “We must look at our reality with our eyes wide-open and understand that the people of Israel need a strong defensive force. A force that will defend with moral values, working according to the tradition of the Jewish people and the tradition and ethical code of the IDF, the ‘spirit of the IDF.’ An Israeli defense force, leaning on its love of its people, its country and mankind. A force that operates out of commitment to defend its nation. A determined, moral and professional defense force.”
Alon’s tenure as commander of the Judea and Samaria division was a controversial one, due to his comments against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
Most recently, in an interview he gave to The New York Times, Alon expressed concern over “increasing violence” by “radical Israeli settlers,” colloquially called ‘price tag’ operations, which he called “Jewish terrorism.”
He also called on U.S. Congress not to freeze aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to the unilateral PA statehood bid, saying such a step would lead to instability and insecurity - for Israel, although commenting on political issues is not the mandate of IDF personnel.
Previously, Alon distributed a letter to commanders in his division in which he asked them to investigate soldiers who are residents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The reason for the request, according to Alon, was a concern that these soldiers may leak information regarding future evacuation of outpost communities.
His comments and actions resulted in heavy condemnations by Yesha’s leaders and protests by residents outside his home. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz condemned the attacks against Alon in an appearance at the Or Etzion yeshiva in July.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi praised Alon, calling him “a true commander and leader. His professionalism, humility, level-headedness and sharp thinking led the division during a challenging and complex time, and he steered it safely and without hesitation towards achieving its goals with a clear understanding of its main priorities.”
Mizrahi rejected the criticism directed at Alon, calling it “unjustified” and condemning it.
“I find it appropriate to take this opportunity, as you leave this position, to denounce them, including those which were made by senior public officials, who chose to believe rumors, publicly making statements that are far from the truth,” Mizrahi told Alon.
“You are true to your principles and to the policy that was determined for Judea and Samaria,” he added. “You led the relations with the Israeli communities with sensitivity, yet you demonstrated determination and took no shortcuts.”
Alon’s leaving of his position was praised by some nationalists on Tuesday, including longtime land of Israel activist Baruch Marzel.
Marzel said Alon is “the most left-wing commander the IDF has ever had,” adding, “The political persecution that Brigadier-General Alon created is what pushed people to support ‘price tag.’”