IDF Chief of Staff Gantz
IDF Chief of Staff GantzIsrael news photo: Flash 90

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz explained to the Knesset Tuesday why, in his view, the IDF cannot offer protection to the Jews of Judea and Samaria by firing at Arabs who terrorize them on the roads and in their homes on a daily basis.

Speaking in the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Gantz acknowledged that “There is pressure by Knesset Members to change the orders for opening fire.”

However, he went on, “If we let go of the reins, there will be escalation and we will lose control.”

Gantz said that the briefings given to soldiers in the field before they go on security missions “need to be improved” but that in the end, the soldiers will continue to operate “in accordance with the present orders, without changing them.”

He added: “We give Nitzan Alon our backing.”

Major General Nitzan Alon is the Head of Central Command. He was appointed by Ehud Barak and is seen as a left-wing general by many leaders of the Jewish settlement enterprise. These leaders believe – or believed until today – that the current defeatist spirit of instructions to IDF soldiers can be gotten rid of, if Alon is replaced by someone else.

Alon appeared before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week, and representatives of the Jewish communities had hoped to face him directly in the presence of MKs. This plan was forestalled when Alon insisted on the settlers' leaving the room before he began to speak, and it later became clear that Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, had given his backing to this precondition.

The Knesset has recently been told that rock throwing attacks in Judea and Samaria are up threefold from 2011, and firebomb attacks are up fourfold. IDF soldiers are complaining that current IDF instructions forbid them from firing at terrorists except in the most extreme of circumstances. Rock and fire bomb attacks are taking place not just against vehicles on the roads but even against homes and people walking inside their communities.