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West Bank Settlers Allowed to Join IDF Reserve Units in the Territory

Jewish settlers have won partial victory in their long campaign to participate in Israel Defense Force operations against the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank.

The settlers, whose annual reserve duty had been confined to their home settlements, are now being integrated into regular IDF units in the territory.

But this is being done in less than company strength. The settlers had demanded that they comprise full companies within IDF battalions.

The decision by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin represents a compromise between the regional commander, Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, who supports the settlers, and the IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron, who opposes the idea.

In a broader sense, it attempts to resolve the controversy over whether the army should consider the political beliefs of reservists they assign to duty in the territories and if the settlers, in particular, should be given the authority and weapons to exercise force there.

The issue emerged on the national agenda after the IDF Central Command decided this month to send a company of settlers to Hebron.

The was immediate public criticism that the massive presence of soldiers with strong right-wing views would create unnecessary friction with the local Arab population, in a city filled with tension between Arabs and Jews. The command backed down, and the settler company was sent to Jericho, a relatively quiet town.

DEPLOYED THROUGHOUT WEST BANK

Now, however, settler units will be deployed throughout the West Bank, including Hebron, the daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported this week.

Davar, another daily, warned that “homogeneous companies of whatever political camp are dangerous.” The newspaper said that “it is unacceptable to set up and operate Gush Emunim companies, just as setting up companies comprised solely of Peace Now supporters is unacceptable.”

Regional defense units were first established in the West Bank in 1978 by the chief of staff at the time, Gen. Rafael Eitan, who later emerged as a right-wing hard-liner. The idea was that Jewish settlers would be defending their own homes.

But the lines became blurred, and more and more settlers were being deployed in Arab towns.

When the intifada broke out almost two years ago, Gen. Amram Mitzna, who was regional commander at the time, once again confined the settlers to home defense.

But Mitzna’s orders were changed by his successor, Gen. Mordechai, who felt he should strengthen settler confidence in the IDF.

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, JTA will not publish a Daily News Bulletin on Friday, Nov. 24.

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