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'It is Important that Israeli Society Appreciate IDF Soldiers'

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz commends IDF in light of Yitzhar events, condemns 'slap in the face' to combat soldiers.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 4/14/2014, 4:41 PM

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz
Flash 90

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz strongly condemned the anti-Semitic shootings in Kansas on Monday, in a special pre-Passover interview with IDF Radio

"This incident is very serious and distressing, even to those who injured," he said. "About what was behind it - anti-Semitism and racism continue to exist around the world."

"To Jewish communities around the globe, we wish you a happy and kosher Passover holiday," he continued. "Through the [continued] existence of the State of Israel, we guarantee you an alternative [to anti-Semitism]."

Yitzhar Attacks a 'Slap in the Face' to IDF

Gantz also related to the drama which unfolded between extremists in Yitzhar and the IDF over the past week, which culminated in the IDF turning the community's Od Yosef Chai yeshiva (Torah study academy) into a military base for two months.

"The reservists in Samaria and in Yitzhar in particular are doing a wonderful job," he stressed. Clashes between the extremists and the IDF began over an alleged 'price tag' attack on a reserve commander's vehicle.  "We do not need to accept this type of behavior. Here nationalist crime degrades into terrorism, and this is a significant danger to the State of Israel. "

"We will continue to ensure the security and enforce the law," he continued. "Extremism is dangerous, unacceptable, and very bad - but does not represent the majority of the residents in Judea and Samaria."

"I am hurt on behalf of combat soldiers in the field, who give their lives for the security of the State of Israel and this is what they receive in return," he added. 

Gantz also noted that the incidents do not reflect a change in how society views IDF soldiers, or reservists in particular.

"It is important that [Israeli] society appreciate its soldiers," he said. "These people have made every effort to protect our security, from people at the front to people behind a computer screen, from new recruits to the last reservist." 

Yitzhar has been the center of dramatic clashes between the IDF and an extremist element in the town over the past week, which began after IDF Colonel Yoav Yarom found his tires slashed outside the community. Yarom stressed to Arutz Sheva Tuesday that the Yitzhar residents themselves were helpful and apologized immediately over the vandalism.

However, the situation snowballed quickly, after officials labeled the tire-slashing a "terrorist act," and a minor was arrested in Jerusalem on suspicions of participating in the attack.

On Monday, a minor was released to house arrest; however, a possible copycat attack 24 hours later drove tensions over the edge. The IDF declared the move a "red line" and began an investigation into Yitzhar; the raid caused intense clashes between local residents, who are weary of frequent raids and demolitions of private property, and police forces.

Tuesday morning, the IDF and other security forces began demolishing homes in Yitzhar, as extremist youths vandalized IDF outposts. Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum have condemned the attacks - albeit for different reasons - and many have stressed that the greater Yitzhar community is not behind the extremists

Since then, more suspects have been arrested in the clashes - but security forces also stepped up their aggression. The IDF and Border Police stormed Od Yosef Chai yeshiva on Friday, shutting it down and turning it into a base for two months, prompting a severe outcry from the wider religious community. A special task force has also been dispatched in Yitzhar to patrol the small community.