Former IDF general blasts 'occupation'

"We are the champions of the occupation," charges Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni, former head of the IDF Central Command.

Uzi Baruch ,

IDF checkpoint
IDF checkpoint
Flash 90

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni, former head of the IDF Central Command, caused a firestorm on Wednesday when he said Israel was “the world champion of occupation”.

His comments were made in a speech at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

“We brought the occupation to a level of art. We are the world champions of occupation. I was head of Central Command. The commander of the occupation,” Shamni charged.

“And I ask ourselves, is that what we want to be? Israel will never agree to an agreement that doesn't address its security demands. The Palestinians will not accept the continuation of the endless Israeli occupation. The only acceptable solution is a separation agreement from the Palestinians,” he continued.

“Countries in the region are ready and interested in maintaining full relations [with Israel], but will not do so as long as the Palestinian issue is not resolved in a manner they find satisfactory. Israel must affect the regional system through its relationships with other countries and its relations with the United States,” said Shamni.

“Israel is the strongest country in the region and it deters its neighbors and enemies. Israel can and must take calculated risks in order to improve its strategic situation in contrast to the policy of minimizing damage of recent years,” he continued.

Turning to Hamas-controlled Gaza, Shamni said, “Gaza is a complex issue. Even if Hamas disarms, it will take years before we can allow free passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria. On the strategic level we must see Hamas as part of the solution. Even though it is part of the problem at the moment. We must strive for it. We must put pressure on Gaza and do whatever it takes so there will not be a humanitarian crisis there . Otherwise there is no way to change.”

Shamni's remarks were later rejected by Ya'akov Amidror, former head of the National Security Council.

“Nothing could be further from reality. It is simply not true,” he said, responding to Shamni's assertion that Israel's situation vis-a-vis countries around the world was problematic.

“I'm not saying we do not have a problem but you have to define it. We have a problem with the issue of the 'settlements' with the U.S. and some European countries. To say that our diplomatic situation is bad is not in line with the true situation of the State of Israel. There has been no erosion in Israel's situation, there is improvement,” continued Amidror.

“The Americans know that in 2014, the Israeli Prime Minister agreed to resume negotiations with [Palestinian Authority chairman] Abbas based on a U.S. proposal presented to Abbas - and Abbas has not replied. So the problem is not the 'occupation', because we agreed to resume negotiations and the Palestinians have not,” he stressed.

Environment Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) expressed regret over Shamni's comments.

“I regret the remarks by Maj. Gen. Shamni. You cannot occupy your own country, you can only go back there. As a resident of Gush Etzion, I see myself as a proud resident [of Judea and Samaria] and not as an occupier of a foreign country - and I would expect the same of IDF officers in charge of protecting the residents of Judea and Samaria,” he said.