JERUSALEM, Oct. 30 – Israel’s senior military commander told columnists for three leading newspapers this week that Israel’s military tactics against the Palestinian population were too repressive and were fomenting explosive levels of “hatred and terrorism” that might become impossible to control.
In remarks that suggest a dramatic split with the approach of the current government, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, said that crackdowns, curfews and roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were crippling the lives of innocent Palestinians and that the military’s tactics were now threatening Israel’s own interests.
The military chief directed most of his complaints at restrictions imposed on the West Bank four weeks ago, after a suicide bomber from the West Bank city of Jenin killed 21 people in a restaurant in the Israeli port of Haifa. Yaalon said the current curfews and travel restrictions, some of the tightest since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, were preventing Palestinians from carrying out critical olive and other agricultural harvests, hampering thousands of children from attending school, increasing hatred for Israel and strengthening terrorist organizations.
“We’re in a more serious situation that the U.S. was in Vietnam,” said reserve Brig. Gen. Yiftah Spector, one of the most decorated fighter pilots in Israeli military history. Spector was grounded as a flight instructor last month after signing a letter, along with 26 other reserve pilots, calling the military’s targeted killings of militants in crowded civilian neighborhoods “illegal and immoral.”
Israel’s military policies in the Palestinian territories, Spector said, are “opposing everything I was raised on” during his career in the air force.