update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

IDF slammed for simulating kidnapping of Arabs by Jews

The heads of local authorities called for an investigation of the incident and the discharge of the officer who wrote the drill.

Reservists from the IDF's Devorah Unit drill near the Lebanese border, Jan. 16, 2024. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
Reservists from the IDF's Devorah Unit drill near the Lebanese border, Jan. 16, 2024. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.

Judea and Samaria leaders are demanding the dismissal of the author of a training exercise conducted by the Israel Defense Forces on Monday that simulated the kidnapping of Palestinian Arabs by Israeli Jews.

The leaders issued an urgent statement calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to “inspect the [IDF] Central Command and discharge the person who wrote the exercise that simulates the kidnapping of a Palestinian by an Israeli.”

The statement continued: “Whoever knows how to discharge a soldier who reads a chapter of Psalms in Jenin, knows how to discharge the person who wrote this exercise that discredits the Yesha communities and endangers lives,” a reference to an incident in December in which several soldiers were suspended for singing Chanukah songs from the loudspeaker of a mosque in Jenin.

On Tuesday afternoon, Netanyahu ordered the IDF to investigate the matter.

“This fictitious scenario is disconnected from reality, inappropriate and does injustice to an entire and precious community,” said Netanyahu, noting that many Judea and Samaria residents are “fighting fiercely and even falling for the defense of Israel” in Gaza.

“I’m not willing to accept such heartlessness towards our brothers and sisters in Judea and Samaria,” added the premier.

The IDF Central Command’s Judea and Samaria Division conducted the drills, describing the kidnapping exercise as one of the “extreme scenarios” played out among over a hundred different scenarios. The Central Command is headed by Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that the military officials who ordered the drill to “portray the settlers as the enemy and the Palestinians as the victim, suffer from a severe moral blindness.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich joined the call for the dismissal of the person responsible for the drill.

“Whoever is responsible for it cannot continue in his role and be entrusted with looking after the lives and safety of the settlers,” said Smotrich.

The Religious Zionism Party chief continued his criticism on Tuesday, saying in an interview with Army Radio that it evoked memories of ancient antisemitic blood libels used against Jews.

“There has never been a case of a settler abducting an Arab child. It’s a bit reminiscent of the blood libels that alleged that Christian children were taken and slaughtered to make matzah. There has never been a case of abduction like that,” Smotrich said.

The IDF also drew criticism for designating the Israeli Jews in the drill as the “enemy force,” as was seen in a video of soldiers wearing vests with the identifying label.

“The IDF did not drill scenarios that simulate settlers as an enemy, and the marking of the vests in question, whose purpose is to separate those training, is part of the exercise’s safety routine,” the army said in a statement.

“In the present case, it was a mistake to mark them with such an inscription and we apologize for that,” the IDF added.

The incident comes against the backdrop of the Biden administration targeting the residents of Judea and Samaria for sanctions as the Democratic president gears up for a tough reelection campaign.

Israeli banks froze the accounts of two Judea residents shortly after the United States announced sanctions for alleged attacks against Palestinians.

Biden issued an executive order last week sanctioning “persons undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank,” citing “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages and property destruction.”

Adopting what it calls a “holistic approach” to the Middle East regional crisis, the White House named four Israelis as the targets of sanctions: Yinon Levi, David Chasdai, Einan Tanjil and Shalom Zicherman.

The State Department accuses Levi of leading a group of Israeli citizens said to have “engaged in actions creating an atmosphere of fear” in Judea, including by carrying out attacks against Palestinian and Bedouin civilians in the village of Khirbet Zanuta and destroying their property.

Levi denies the accusations and has not been charged or indicted for any crime.

“The executive order is a result of requests to Biden by the anarchist, anti-Zionist left, which hates the Jewish people and made up a bunch of stories about Israel’s pioneers,” he said on Sunday.

“Biden, who is unable to deal with the Houthis who murder American soldiers, doesn’t scare us. We will continue to settle the Land of Israel without fear,” Levi added.

The Biden administration has also been pressing Israel to provide answers regarding a series of incidents in which, it claims, Israel Defense Forces units operating in Judea and Samaria may have violated the so-called “Leahy Law.”

The Leahy Law states that Pentagon-appropriated funds “may not be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a foreign security force unit if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

The U.S. request implies that should Israel fail to provide satisfactory answers, Israeli forces serving in Judea and Samaria will not get U.S.-funded munitions.

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