Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Ostrovsky Files: Combat Units Manned by West Bank Settlers Puts Trojan Horse within the Future Palestinian State

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Ostrovsky Files: Combat Units Manned by West Bank Settlers Puts Trojan Horse within the Future Palestinian State

Article excerpt

THE OSTROVSKY FILES: Combat Units Manned by West Bank Settlers Puts Trojan Horse Within the Future Palestinian State

Several weeks ago the Israel Defense Force (IDF) announced its decision to allow reserve combat personnel who are residents of the West Bank to do their annual military reserve service in units posted in the West Bank.

In fact settlers have been doing just that for quite some time, working as clerks and in other non-combat jobs in military government offices in the occupied territories. The new innovation is that from now on Jewish West Bank settlers can serve not only in administrative positions within units based in the territories -- but also in first-line combat units created and manned by Israeli residents of the occupied territories.

At first glance, the move appears to be a reasonable response to shrinking military budgets. What could be more convenient than having reserve units train in proximity to their dwellings? It would save on transportation and other costs, not to mention shortening response time in case of an emergency.

For Israelis living within Israel's Green Line borders (not in the occupied territories, that is), this is a perfect solution. Let Jews who want to live in the West Bank or Gaza protect themselves -- especially since there is a great deal of dissatisfaction within Israeli reserve units forced to serve in the West Bank as babysitters for the settlers.

The IDF did not explain all of this in its short announcement, but left economic and political speculation concerning the new policy to the commentators, hoping they would ignore this item as unnewsworthy.

Hiding this monumental move in plain sight has worked. The announcement was accepted as a matter of fact by the Israeli media as well as the Palestinian Authority. It appears that no one has paid any attention to the move's significance.

Had any of the Israeli media outlets, or members of the Israeli opposition, not to mention the Palestinian Authority, examined this move closely, they would have realized it was probably the Israeli government's most dangerous step taken against the peace process, and a milestone in changing the Middle East balance of power as we know it.

This statement might sound dramatic, but if one examines the possible outcome, and recognizes the zeal of the players in the game, it is not at all far-fetched.


By no means can such a move be regarded as economical. In fact it is an extravagance to allow reserve combat personnel to serve in units that are close to their homes. To begin with, the military must first create such units, as they do not yet exist.

In order for such units to function, the army must build a specialized infrastructure, including supply depots and weapons and munitions storage facilities. There must also be a command center with support organizations -- intelligence, engineering, transportation and armored units and a communication center.

In addition, IDF will have to reshuffle many of its non-West Bank-based combat units to release and replace the settlers from their existing posts.

Not only will the costs increase, but it goes against the IDF's fundamental combat premise of a flexible, mobile army. Since the IDF draws its strength from its mobility and flexibility, it attempts to train all of its combat units to fight in any terrain. In all of Israel's wars, fighting units usually served on several fronts in a matter of days.

In addition to the economic and military doctrines that are being broken by this decision, there is a critical one that strikes at the heart of the IDF's existence as the people's army. …

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