Two out of 10 soldiers voted for Religious Zionism, the slate that includes Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party. Two out of 10 soldiers are Kahanists. Two out of 10 soldiers are in favor of transfer, annexation, death to terrorists, death to Arabs.

Two out of 10 soldiers think they belong to a superior nation and that Palestinians have no rights here. They also think that everything is permissible to soldiers; that they are always allowed to shoot to kill, that the Arabs understand only force and humiliation, that they are not human beings. Two out of 10 soldiers are Kahanists, but among soldiers serving in the West Bank that number is much greater.

In the Kfir Brigade, and particularly its Netzah Yehuda Battalion, there are certainly more Kahanists than in the Border Police, Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 or the Israel Air Force’s Golden Eagle Squadron. It’s not unreasonable to guess that about half of the soldiers serving in the occupation voted for Otzma Yehudit by casting their ballots for Religious Zionism. To them the decision is not just theoretical. They not only believe in Ben-Gvir, they practice what he preaches. That is what makes their choice so horrific.

The benefit, though, of Ben-Gvir’s electoral success is that it brings the truth to the surface. Gone are the days of the stories about soldiers who are tormented by their actions. Everything we always suspected about the brutal, at times barbaric behavior of IDF soldiers and members of the Border Police and Israel Police has been confirmed in the vote count. Ben-Gvir’s voters in the IDF make up one of his largest sources of support.

Anyone who sees the behavior of soldiers in the territories can only be surprised that Otzma Yehudit didn’t capture 100 percent of their votes. Ben-Gvir exhorts them to be storm troopers and they thank him for it at the ballot box. They don’t need training, they see nothing wrong with being a storm trooper, especially when their commanders’ reactions to their deeds range from indifference to encouragement.

Don’t be deceived: It wasn’t only regular soldiers who voted for Ben-Gvir – so did some of their commanders. The attempt to claim that the soldiers voted against their commanders (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom, Nov. 4) is another desperate effort to sanitize and dress up the beautiful, enlightened high command.

Take, for example, Menashe Regional Brigade commander Col. Arik Moyal, a settler from Tapuah, who called for giving the “hoodlums” from the Jenin refugee camp a punch in the nose: What party did he vote for? And the former Samaria Regional Brigade commander, Col. Roi Zweig, who told students of the Alon Moreh Yeshiva that the settlement movement and the army are “one and the same”? It doesn’t matter how they voted, the spirit is that of Ben-Gvir; the time, as his campaign slogan said, is Ben-Gvir time, among all the IDF units in the territories.

The soldiers who stand by during the pogroms and even help the perpetrators are evidence of the IDF spirit. The fact that the high command calmly accepts the events of the past few months, including the killings of dozens of teenagers and young children, settling for the lies and cover-ups of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, only proves that Ben-Gvir is the true face of the IDF in the West Bank. The election confirmed this.

This election should put an end to the lie that the IDF is a moral army. Soldiers and commanders who vote heavily for a party that in Europe would be considered neo-Nazi define the army’s image. Since the settlers gained control of command positions in the army, mainly in the West Bank, the IDF, which was always political, became more right-wing than ever.

The fact that those at the top did not lift a finger all these years – and less so after the affair of Elor Azaria, the last soldier to be prosecuted in the IDF for manslaughter – does not absolve them of responsibility for this rightward shift. When soldiers are not prosecuted for homicide even when the evidence cries out to the heavens for it, and when the rules of engagement are not only relaxed but in practice canceled altogether – when killing is permitted and even desirable – the spirit of Meir Kahane is encouraged. Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and the rest of the high command can look away and recite lofty statements about principles, but they are responsible for establishing a new army in the territories, Ben-Gvir’s army, the most dangerous of the armies of Israel.

QOSHE - Ben-Gvir’s Army in the West Bank - Gideon Levy
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Ben-Gvir’s Army in the West Bank

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07.11.2022

Two out of 10 soldiers voted for Religious Zionism, the slate that includes Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party. Two out of 10 soldiers are Kahanists. Two out of 10 soldiers are in favor of transfer, annexation, death to terrorists, death to Arabs.

Two out of 10 soldiers think they belong to a superior nation and that Palestinians have no rights here. They also think that everything is permissible to soldiers; that they are always allowed to shoot to kill, that the Arabs understand only force and humiliation, that they are not human beings. Two out of 10 soldiers are Kahanists, but among soldiers serving in the West Bank that number is much greater.

In the Kfir Brigade, and particularly its Netzah Yehuda Battalion, there are certainly more Kahanists than in the Border Police, Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 or the Israel Air Force’s Golden Eagle Squadron. It’s not unreasonable to guess that about half of the soldiers serving in the occupation voted for Otzma Yehudit by casting their ballots for Religious Zionism. To them the decision is not just theoretical. They not only believe in Ben-Gvir,........

© Haaretz


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