Ex-IDF intel chief: Those who burn Palestinian villages destroy Israel’s legitimacy

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire set by settlers in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire set by settlers in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Amos Yadlin, the former head of IDF military intelligence, says that some ministers who are demanding a major IDF offensive in the West Bank to tackle terrorism akin to the 2002 Operation Guardian of the Walls “don’t know what they are talking about.”

That military operation, focused on destroying the terrorist infrastructure behind the Second Intifada’s onslaught of suicide bombers, saw the IDF re-enter major Palestinian cities where the Palestinian Authority had hitherto held full control under the Oslo Accords, he elaborates.

“Israel had not previously entered Area A” — the major West Bank cities, notes Yadlin in a Channel 12 interview. “Nowadays, Israel [routinely] enters Area A, and goes wherever the PA is not functioning, on the basis of specific intelligence information.”

“Nonetheless,” adds Yadlin, the former head of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, “the enemy is becoming familiar with Israel’s operational methods and is improving. The level of terrorism is rising — because there are weapons everywhere, and there is money everywhere, from Iran and Hamas. So different methods are needed.”

“It may be that the IDF, instead of overnight raids, may have to take control of more territory, for longer, but still in a focused manner — in places such as the Jenin refugee camp and other parts of the northern West Bank where the PA is not in control and from where the terrorism is being dispatched.”

Amos Yadlin (Flash90)

He says the US recognizes that Israel has “legitimacy to take action” in the northern West Bank, after terror attacks like yesterday’s. “But legitimacy is very fluid. It can be lost in a second. It can be lost internally when there are, heaven forbid, losses [to Israeli forces]. It can be lost when Palestinian non-combatants are killed.”

And he stresses, “It disappears when Palestinian villages are burned and non-involved Palestinian residents are hurt. That is simply destroying Israeli legitimacy.”

Yadlin, once a Labor party candidate for minister of defense, says that the government has rightly designated the imperative to stop Iran’s nuclear drive, and the bid for normalization with Saudi Arabia, as being at the top of Israel’s national security agenda.

“If we follow the messianic agenda of the extremists in the government we will hurt ourselves,” he warns. “We want to stop Iran. We want to bring Saudi Arabia [to the peace table]. We need the Americans for that. We don’t want to harm the good relations we have with Egypt and Jordan. We don’t want the UAE to close down its embassy here.”

Therefore, says Yadlin, “there’s a whole national security envelope that requires a very carefully calibrated, very precise operation [in the West Bank], backed by legitimacy [from our allies]. If we embark on an operation against a background of burning Palestinian villages, we will do immense harm to ourselves and will not achieve the necessary operational success — of raising our security against terrorism.”

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