Due to the incoming Israeli government’s declared intention of transferring civilian issues in Judea and Samaria to the relevant ministries, alarmists are coming out of the woodwork, using their security credentials to further political agendas. They are recklessly spreading falsehoods and sowing distrust of the new government before it has even started to act on the mandate it was so clearly given by the Israeli public in the November elections.
I am appalled by recent statements from former senior generals regarding the anticipated policies and coalition agreements of the incoming government, mainly because they are unfounded and dishonest. Allow me to tell you why, and explain the context of the complex situation in Judea and Samaria.
Let’s start with the most basic of all requirements for any sovereign state: security. Modern Israel is a small and geographically-challenged state, which cannot thrive or even sustain itself without complete security control over Judea and Samaria, with the Jordan Valley as its eastern border. Security cannot be achieved without the presence of civilians, since the military by itself can never really control terrain without having civilians there to defend. Thus, from a pure security perspective, the Israelis living in Judea and Samaria are actively contributing to the security of the State of Israel by choosing to live where they live.
But here things get more complicated, even borderline absurd. Imagine that you live in an Israeli community in the Judean hills. Let’s say you own a nice little house with a backyard and a view of the ancestral Jewish homeland. If you want to add a patio to your house, you would naturally seek a building permit in order to do so. Only in this situation, you as an Israeli civilian would have to apply for a permit from the IDF’s Civil Administration, not your local municipality. It is this abnormal situation, and many others, that the incoming government seeks to rectify. Israeli civilians are entitled to services from Israeli government ministries, and shouldn’t have to seek them from the military—other than security, of course.
There is a tremendous backlog of building requests from Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria, simply because the Civil Administration has too much on its plate. More worrying from a security perspective is that the Palestinians, under the direct guidance of the Palestinian Authority and with European funding, continue to infringe on Area C and build illegally at an alarming rate, closing in on Israeli communities and threatening to choke the road network across Judea and Samaria. These are tangible security threats that need to be addressed immediately.
The focus, however, should be on providing services to Israeli civilians, not military affairs. Nor does it relate to governing the Palestinians, who are under the control and responsibility of the P.A.
Having spoken with Bezalel Smotrich, who is leading the push for this reform, along with his staff, I am of the firm opinion that these policies are based on sound thinking and reasonable goals. I also know that former senior officers from the Civil Administration and the IDF were personally involved in defining how to best promote the aim of improving the lives of Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria, without it coming at the expense of anyone else, while also preserving the unity of command of the IDF Chief of Staff and the integrity of the Ministry of Defense.
I believe this move is long overdue and has great potential to right a historical wrong and boost the security and quality of life of Israelis without adversely affecting the Palestinians. We should all give it a fair chance to succeed.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi is the founder and CEO of the Israel Defense and Security Forum, an NGO comprised of over 16,000 former members of the Israeli security forces that promotes Israeli national security.