Minding Our Business
Maj. – General Nitzan Alon must have done something right if he managed to get Israeli MK Limor Livnat’s knickers in a twist. So to speak that is. Speaking on Tuesday in front of foreign reporters, Israel’s head of Central Command said that the U.S. efforts during the last few months have had a positive effect on the West Bank, adding that a negative outcome to these efforts may lead to an escalation in violence.
This isn’t the first time he has got into trouble over voicing his opinions. In an interview with the New York Times in 2011, Alon – then commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, said that cutting off American aid to the Palestinian Authority would lead to instability and insecurity for Israel and the Palestinians. Alon is also famous for strongly condemning all “price tag” actions as terrorist acts (Ha’aretz, October, 2011).
As a result of such statements, Alon has become a sort of persona non grata within some settler circles. Considered as being biased against the settler population and pro-Palestinian, Alon was even physically attacked and harassed outside his home by settler protesters. The Jerusalem Post called him “the most radical, politically insubordinate officer to have held the position in recent memory”. It should also be mentioned that some settlers published a letter of support for Alon.
The main criticism against Alon today is that he is again overstepping his responsibilities as a military commander and crossing the line into the realm of politics. But whether his words are political in nature or not, though important, is of lesser consequence. I’ll get to that at the end. The ramifications of his words are 100% political, and this is the main cause for the uproar.
Firstly, Alon’s claim is that contrary to popular thought, the Palestinian Authority is obliging the American initiative to renew the peace process by making some positive steps to ease the tensions in the West Bank. By the way, it seems that Israel is also making an effort since all evidence shows it has quietly put a stop to construction within the 1967 lines.
But more importantly, Alon is expressing a commonly-held belief within the IDF that talks between Israel and the Palestinians have a positive and calming effect over the current situation in the West Bank, defined as being sensitive at best, and at worst, explosive.
Regardless of the question as to whether this is the correct strategy for Israel in the long run, and readers of this blog know that I believe a peace deal the only way to ensure a democratic Jewish state in the future, it is interesting to hear the IDF asserting the benefits of talking with the Palestinians, and the dangers of not doing so. It is this assertion that rankled some elements on the right, who repeatedly claim that talks only weaken Israel and are of little use in any case.
I for one, do not believe that there was any political content in what he said. He was stating facts, not interpreting them. I also don’t think that Alon, who was awarded a few years back the Chief of Staff Citation for a covert mission he commanded while commanding the IDF’s elite reconnaissance unit, meant to make a political statement in order to pressurize decision makers. Yes, he was not minding his own business, he was minding our business.