Benny Katzover, Chairman of the Shomron (Samaria) Residents Committee, welcomed on Tuesday the appointment of Hagai Mordechai to the position of Commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division.
Mordechai is replacing Brigadier General Nitzan Alon, who held the position for over two years and whose views more often than not clashed with the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Katzover expressed hope that Mordechai’s appointment will mark the beginning of new and better relations between the IDF and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria than there were during the term of his predecessor.
“Unfortunately Nitzan Alon broke all records, and the peak was in the interview he gave to the New York Times where he called for the reduction of the forces that protect our communities,” Katzover said, adding that Alon acted according to “a significantly left-wing agenda.”
In the NYT interview, Alon also expressed concern over “increasing violence” by “radical Israeli settlers,” colloquially called ‘price tag’ operations, which he called “Jewish terrorism,,” equating alleged vandalism with Arab terrorist murders, and called on U.S. Congress not to freeze aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to the unilateral PA statehood bid.
After that interview, Katzover condemned Alon’s statements, saying Alon had “spit on the rule of law.” On Tuesday, he said that Alon’s term as Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division will be remembered as one of the most difficult periods in history.
“Nitzan Alon often made children walk many kilometers on foot after declaring areas closed military zones,” he said. “We cannot forget the plastic bullets used against residents at Havat Gilad. That could never have been done without his approval. We cannot forget the fact that he briefed the press after the murder of Ben Yosef Livnat at Joseph’s Tomb and said it was just a shooting incident.”
“I am sorry to have to speak against Nitzan Alon,” Katzover added, “but there was never a commander with such blatant political behavior who fought us and didn’t recognize us [as citizens with equal rights].”
Katzover praised the incoming commander, Brig.-Gen. Mordechai.
“I know him and he is a decent and honest man and I hope he succeeds,” he said. “I’ve hosted him several times for a tour of Samaria and was very impressed with his humility.”