The rebellion of Israel’s second army

An Israeli Border Police officer points his weapon at journalists and Palestinian paramedics during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in north Ramallah, near the Beit El checkpoint, occupied West Bank, December 22, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)
Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi hands over to his successor a ‘policing army’ that is more autonomous, settler-led, and lethal than ever.

By Yagil Levy | +972 Magazine | Dec 26 ,2022

Indeed, the cumulative record in the occupied territories irrefutably shows that the Israeli army is not just an enabler, but in many ways a sponsor, of settler violence.

Next month, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi is set to hand over the reins of Israel’s military forces to his successor, Major General Herzi Halevi. Among the many matters Halevi will be taking up — including questions around the future of Israel’s conscription model — perhaps his biggest challenge will be how the army tackles its main arena of operations, which is subject to deep disputes among Israel’s political and military echelons: the policing warfare against Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This is assuming that the signing of a maritime border deal with Lebanon holds off a potential third Israel-Lebanon war, while an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is also not expected imminently. Kochavi has not often been involved in the policing missions in the West Bank, but it seems that what happens there is liable to cast a shadow over his tenure — as shown by the furor when an Israeli soldier assaulted a left-wing activist in Hebron last month.

When it comes to the Palestinians, the Israeli military is in fact splintered into two armies, a structure that came into being in the wake of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Alongside the “official” army, a “policing” force has emerged in the Israeli-controlled West Bank. The “official” army, the IDF, has a high command that is generally subordinated to political control, while the “policing army,” although not an official entity, is an organization with clear and unique characteristics.

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