IDF prepares for September declaration
The Israel Defense Forces is finding it hard to predict what will happen after the possible declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September, but in the meantime it is holding training exercises, maps are being updated and even the state of mind on Facebook is being looked into.
The IDF is also preparing engineering resources, purchasing and expanding existing crowd dispersion equipment and mainly, preparing for every eventuality – from the mainstream to the extreme. Ynet is taking a first look at the "Migdal Oz" plan which details how the IDF is planning on maintaining order in the West Bank on the "day after".
Deliberations held over the last few weeks among senior GOC Central Command officials have raised one major question – the status of IDF officers and troops after the planned Palestinian declaration of statehood: Will an officer seeking to arrest a terror suspect in Nablus or Ramallah be required to present a visa or passport? And how is he supposed to act in such a situation?
Preparing for Worst
None of those present at the deliberations could supply an answer, which indicates that the Defense Establishment is heading for a period of uncertainty in the West Bank. The defense and civil coordination outlook remains hazy: What kinds of protests should they expect? Which side will the Palestinian Authority take?
And yet the defense establishment's calendars don't have any special mentions or substantial alterations ahead of events in September. Military officials believe it will take some time for the Palestinian citizens to examine their new status against the actual changes.
A different theory sees the Palestinians quickly reaching a state of frustration and disillusionment which could lead them to "let off steam". Among the extreme scenarios: riots, and confrontations on settlements and IDF bases.
A third theory states that the IDF's chief mission is to prepare for war and expected riots cannot become the troops' main pursuit. "I don't intend to halt training at any price. We need to remember that this is not a large tactical event," the commander of one of the divisions noted.
Central Command Chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi who has been keeping a close eye on the deployment has passed on his recommendations to the Chief of Staff Major General Benny Gantz. They include expanding the ring of troops set to deal with riots in other sectors.
A large part of the "Migdal Oz" plan deals with the acquisition and expansion of crowd dispersal methods. GOC Central Command recently acquired more than double of their usual annual crowd dispersal resources order.
'Like Syrian infiltrators'
In addition to the usual resources they have also purchased the "Scream" acoustical system which basically makes noise at an increased volume that assists in dispersing crowds. The IDF has also purchased appropriate protection methods for riot areas. The equipment is all set to be in IDF hands by August.
The IDF has also been carrying out infrastructural adjustments, for example, elevating military outposts. They have also prepared concrete barricades which will be put in place if the need arises during massive protests.
Nevertheless the IDF has made it clear that while it hopes to stop protestors in a way that would keep the number of casualties at a minimum, if there is no other option they will open fire.
Military sources said that from the army's perspective, if the Palestinians were to infiltrate the fence surrounding Beit El or Yitzhar, this would be dealt with in the same manner as the infiltrators from Syria. "We will fire at the lower extremities," said one military official.
Within the framework of all these preparations the IDF is taking two main scenarios into consideration: Popular protests without the Palestinian Authority's direct support, maybe even with prevention efforts from the Palestinian security apparatus. The second scenario is an all out Intifada organized by the Palestinian Authority.
The first option is obviously easier to deal with from the IDF's standpoint. And yet, the IDF would be able to strike at the new state's infrastructure, including security installations thus sending a very assertive message. A "bank" of possible targets is being collected under the radar. No one wishes to make use of it but the option is firmly on the table.
The Palestinians will not be in a hurry to endanger their infrastructure so it is hard to estimate whether the protests will be organized by the newly formed state. If security coordination continues then it can be hoped that the incidents will be confined.
There is an additional variable that must be taken into account – the Hamas who, in light of the unity agreement with Fatah is more prominent in the West Bank and so could be a fermenting factor.
"We are heading for a murky period that hides many dangers," summarized one senior officer. "As an army we need to be prepared for every possible scenario. It is possible that we will have to face a complicated situation that will change all that we have become familiar with in the West Bank over the last few years. That is what we are preparing for."
The Israeli policy which will be decided on in Jerusalem will have a critical influence on the future. As he prepared to end his term in office, the outgoing Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin said that Israel, without recognizing the newly formed state would face opposition from the international community which could hurt its own status.