IDF general laments his ‘Stalinesque’ power over settler youths

Central Command chief heard in leaked recording saying Israel ‘isn’t a normal country,’ citing administrative orders handed to teens; army expresses regret over remark

Then-commander of the Judea and Samaria Division Tamir Yadai during an interview on January 6, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Then-commander of the Judea and Samaria Division Tamir Yadai during an interview on January 6, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A senior general in the Israel Defense Forces has been recorded lamenting in a closed meeting that his power to hand administrative restraining orders to extremist settler youths rivals the powers held by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In the recording, aired by the Kan public broadcaster Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, head of the IDF Central Command, also said that Israel “isn’t a normal country.”

The military said the quotes were taken out of context, but expressed regret over the comparison to Stalin.

Administrative orders and detentions are controversial measures that Israel uses to hold suspects — usually Palestinians but also, on occasion, Jews — without charge or keep them away from certain areas, in cases where security authorities say revealing the evidence in court would damage national security.

The meeting in which Yadai was speaking appeared to center around the recent death of settler teenager Ahuvia Sandak during a police chase, after rocks were allegedly thrown at Palestinians from the car in which Sandak was riding.

People protest over the death of Ahuvia Sandak in a car crash during a police chase, near the Police Internal Investigations Department in Jerusalem on January 2, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Cases like Ahuvia Sandak are a failure by all of us,” Yadai, who is set to soon become the commander of the IDF Ground Forces, is heard saying in the recording. “Now, look, as part of my job I periodically, from week to week, sign these [administrative] orders. I pretty much sign a certificate marking the failure of the whole system. Had we succeeded in our mission, the matter wouldn’t have reached me.

The Kan report noted that 31 such orders were issued throughout 2020.

“The authorities and the powers given to me are in the realm of Stalin,” Yadai said. “This isn’t a normal country.”

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit commented that “the remarks, which were made in a closed meeting of officials in charge of dealing with hilltop youth, were selectively presented and taken out of context. The meeting dealt with the importance of collaborative work between all [security] bodies for the benefit of all residents of the area.”

The IDF said Yadai had noted that alongside enforcement activities, other measures such as education should be employed to counter extremism among settler teenagers.

“The choice of words regarding the metaphor could have been done better and we express regret for that,” the IDF statement said.

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