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Territories Calmer, but Unstable, IDF Commander Tells Reporters

June 7, 1988
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The commander of the Israel Defense Force in the West Bank told reporters here Sunday that the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-administered territories “has passed its peak and is now in its declining trend.”

But Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, head of the IDF’s central command, warned at a news conference here that there has been “no change in factors that led to the uprising” and the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip remains “unstable.”

Mitzna also denied vehemently that incidents of abuse of Palestinians were part of a systematic army policy.

“True, there are more than we expected–irregularities or exceptions when a soldier or a young officer or commanders did not follow instructions,” he said.

But incidents in which soldiers go beyond instructions to use “reasonable force” are thoroughly investigated, he said.

He estimated that court-martials have been carried out in “several dozens cases — each case more than one soldier.”

Otherwise, Mitzna said he was “happy to say we were surprised by how our soldiers behaved.” The general also said he was pleased at “how clearly they understood the mission” and added that there is no problem with morale.

Mitzna is in the United States for one week, at the invitation of the United Jewish Appeal. After meetings with UJA leadership in New York, he is scheduled to travel to Washington for meetings of an unspecified, private nature.


During the news conference, Mitzna, 43, was careful to deflect questions of a political nature in favor of discussion of the IDF’s mission to “contain violent incidents and return tranquility” to the West Bank.

“Most of the people in Israel understand that in the situation now,” he said, “the choice is not between self-autonomy for the Palestinians versus a military government, but between military government, as imperfect as it may be, and anarchy.”

The general defended IDF measures that have come under criticism abroad. He said the practice of putting Palestinians under administrative detention is a legitimate means of restoring tranquility to the region.

The Palestinians have gained little in almost six months of unrest, Mitzna said, and have “retreated back almost 10 or 15 years” in their relationship with the Israeli government.

But he warned that the unrest had sparked some “irreversible” changes among the Palestinians, including a new-found political self-confidence, the rise of a young, militant leadership and a revival of Islamic fundamentalism.

He predicted an increase in terrorist acts “by individuals and small groups” out of frustration over the futility of the recent unrest.

Declining to say how Israeli politicians could defuse thee changes, Mitzna again spoke from a military perspective.

“We want the Palestinians not just to fear when they see an Israeli soldier, but to respect an Israeli soldier,” he said.

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