IDF chief slams settlers’ latest ‘slanderous campaign’ against Central Command head

Banners hung up along main West Bank highway castigate Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox for authorizing demolition of illegal outposts; Gallant: ‘Despicable campaign’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

File: Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox tours the scene of a shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara, March 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces).
File: Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox tours the scene of a shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara, March 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces).

Top defense officials, including Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Thursday expressed forceful criticism of what they branded a “slanderous and inappropriate campaign” against the chief of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox.

Settler activists put out banners with Fox’s picture along Route 60 — the West Bank’s main north-south highway — that read: “The harassment of the settlement [enterprise] continues — six evictions within a week.” They were criticizing the general for authorizing the demolition of illegally built structures.

“[Bezalel] Smotrich, [Itamar] Ben Gvir — Fox couldn’t care less about you!” the posters added, referring to two far-right ministers who campaigned on legalizing illegal settler outposts.

In a statement, the military said: “The IDF and its commanders work to protect the citizens of the State of Israel, including the residents of Judea and Samaria,” using the biblical name for the West Bank, as it is referred to by many Israelis.

“The chief of staff condemns the slanderous and inappropriate campaign against the commander of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox. The commander of the Central Command is an officer who takes the initiative, is moral and is dedicated to his mission. The security forces under his command work every day to thwart terror, and to preserve the safety and security of the residents of the Judea and Samaria region,” the statement added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also issued a statement condemning the “despicable campaign” against Fox.

“Maj. Gen. Fox is an outstanding fighter and commander who leads his soldiers day and night in the missions of protecting the residents of Judea and Samaria under his command, and in carrying out dozens of operations to thwart terror,” Gallant said.

The settlers’ campaign was aimed at National Security Minister Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Smotrich, the latter of whom is also a junior minister in the Defense Ministry, which gives him broad authority over civilian issues in the West Bank.

While the international community considers all settlements in the West Bank illegal, Israel differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state, and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, often on private Palestinian land.

In February, government ministers approved the legalization of nine outposts deep in the West Bank in response to a string of recent Palestinian terror attacks in East Jerusalem.

Heads of the IDF’s Central Command have repeatedly come under fire by some settler groups over the years for what they felt was insufficient action against security threats or egregious action against illegal Jewish settlements.

Fox especially has been condemned by settlers numerous times, including last June, when he was defended by then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi and then-defense minister Benny Gantz.

Fox, who is in charge of troops in the West Bank, called an unprecedented deadly settler rampage in the West Bank town of Huwara earlier this year a “pogrom.”

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