IDF to reconfigure Jerusalem-area brigades to streamline counter-terror efforts

IDF to reconfigure Jerusalem-area brigades to streamline counter-terror efforts

Military says soldiers will still not operate inside the boundaries of the capital, as has been proposed in the past

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The West Bank town of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The West Bank town of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The IDF will reorganize its West Bank units in the coming months, in order to bring the entire area surrounding Jerusalem under the responsibility of one brigade, rather than split between two, as it is now, the army said on Monday.

Under the proposal, which was the result of several months of General Staff-level planning, the areas close to Jerusalem that are currently under the Etzion Regional Brigade will instead become part of the Binyamin Regional Brigade, the military said. This will specifically include the Arab towns of Abu Dis and Eizariya.

The army was keen to emphasize that the move did not mean that it would be deployed inside the boundaries of Jerusalem, which would remain the responsibility of the Israel Police and Border Police.

The decision was made in light of increased attacks coming from the West Bank areas surrounding the city in recent years. By bringing all aspects under one roof, the army hopes to make its law enforcement and counterterrorism efforts more efficient.

The area surrounding Jerusalem presents a complicated security challenge for the military, as the army is permitted to operate only inside the West Bank, not within the borders of Jerusalem, though many terror suspects come from the Arab neighborhoods in the eastern portion of the capital and are residents of Israel, putting them in a different legal category than West Bank Palestinians.

Israeli army soldiers secure the main entrance of the Qalandiya checkpoint, a main crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 27, 2016. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

In addition, some parts of East Jerusalem lie on the West Bank side of the security wall surrounding the territory. These often crime-ridden, neglected areas are technically under the purview of the Israel Police and Jerusalem Municipality, though given their location, there has been discussion about moving them to be under the military’s scope.

As such, the military will also be revamping the way in which it cooperates with the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service, the army spokesperson said.

Increased cooperation between the Etzion and Binyamin brigades is set to begin immediately, with the use of a joint command and control center, but the formal transfer of responsibility will only take effect later this summer when new brigade commanders are named, the official said.

In addition, a few months later, some of the northern parts of the Binyamin Regional Brigade will become the responsibility of the Samaria Regional Brigade.

The army’s Judea and Samaria Division — named for the biblical term for the West Bank — is divided into six regional brigades, each with a responsibility for major Palestinian cities and the surrounding area.

The Menashe Brigade operates in the Jenin area, the Ephraim Brigade around Tulkarm and Qalqilya, the Samaria Brigade around Nablus, the Binyamin Brigade around Ramallah, the Etzion Brigade around Bethlehem and the Yehuda Brigade around Hebron.

read more: