The real concern among Israeli generals is how little the occupation will alter under the leadership of two fervently nationalist settlers.
There is a good reason why Gadi Eisenkot, a former commander of the Israeli military, expressed alarm last week when Benjamin Netanyahu gave a far-right settler party unprecedented authority over the occupation in his new government.
If Netanyahu so openly politicized the army’s function, according to Eisenkot, the army would be in danger of “falling apart.” He and the other generals are actually more concerned for another reason, though. They are aware that Netanyahu is about to demolish the security justification for their racial oppression of the Palestinians living under their rule, which has long been covered up by a pretext of security.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, a member of the fascist Jewish Power party, was given control over Israel’s internal police force by the prime minister-designate, and his mandate was expanded to include the Border Police, a different paramilitary force that primarily serves in the occupied territories.
Ben-Gvir is a well-known advocate of Kahanism, the ferociously anti-Arab ideology of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. The foundation of Netanyahu’s new coalition, his political party is now the third-largest in the Israeli parliament.
Bezalel Smotrich, a political ally of Ben-Gvir, is anticipated to lead Israel‘s Civil Administration, a military bureaucracy that has far more control over Palestinian lives in the West Bank than the nominal Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Now, approving the construction of additional settlements will fall under the direct authority of a settler leader who advocates the annexation of the West Bank.
It may be difficult for the majority of occupied Palestinians to imagine their situation getting worse or Israel’s “rule of law” becoming an even bigger charade. They already have to deal with violent, religiously extremist Jewish settlers who claim biblical title deeds to justify stealing more and more Palestinian land. These settlers are armed and confident that the Israeli government will not prosecute them. Over 60% of the West Bank is already entirely under Israel’s control, and the remaining 40% is effectively under its control.
However, the brutality of the settlers will now take place under an openly Jewish supremacist system in which it will be the responsibility of the police and Israeli officials to not only ignore such criminality but to actively support it.
Eisenkot, however, is not concerned about whether the suffering of the Palestinians worsens. After all, this general was the one who first introduced the infamous Dahiya doctrine to justify Israel’s ongoing destruction of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. In flagrant violation of international law, the doctrine calls for the use of “disproportionate” and indiscriminate firepower on civilian areas.
In 2014, the besieged Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza was bombed using the exact same strategy, according to outgoing defense minister and fellow general Benny Gantz, who dubbed it a return to “the Stone Age.”
Eisenkot issued a warning that the army was in danger of disintegrating after Netanyahu elevated Ben-Gvir to minister of national security last week. He called on “a million” Israelis to protest in the streets. He emphasized that it was important to avoid making soldiers feel unmotivated to fight.
Gantz also raised the alarm. According to him, Ben-Gvir’s appointment would put an end to “security cooperation” with the Palestinian Authority and turn the Israeli army into Ben-Gvir’s personal militia. It is important to remember that neither general’s worries are valid.