Dr. Levy is associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Political Science, and Communication at the Open University of Israel.
The possible renewal of the Israel-Palestine peace talks raises concerns about the extent to which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will follow the civilians' orders to evacuate Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Critical here is the clash between the reality that has been created in the West Bank with the growing number of Jewish settlements and the increasing reliance of the IDF on religious and settler soldiers whose ideological commitment is to the entrenchment of the settlement project, not to peace making.
It is argued that these constraints on the military result from the IDF's deviation from two constitutive principles of the modern military: the distancing of the military from domestic policing and the creation of relatively impermeable boundaries between the military and society. Consequently, Israel's ability to implement painful political decisions involving the dismantling of Jewish settlements has been circumscribed. With the hobbling of the military, the opportunity for peace may once again slip away, while Israel may promote the pursuit of peace agreements that do not require the dismantling of settlements.
The first section of this paper presents the theoretical concepts underlying this argument. The second traces the historical background of the IDF's relations with religious enlistees, and the third and fourth sections describe the structure of the military deployment in the West Bank and the level of its deviation from the two constitutive principles of the modern military. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of the constraints on the military.
THE CONSTITUTIVE PRINCIPLES
The crystallization of the modern state, entwined with the building of citizen armies, involved two constitutive principles. The first principle involves decoupling civil and military society.1 As Bearman2 maintained, decoupling is necessary to create unit solidarity by transforming the recruit's identity from citizen to soldier. Training and disciplinary mechanisms facilitate this transformation, central to which is the distancing of the enlistees from their communities. It is no accident that the barracks, geographically separated and cordoned off from civilian communities, typified the creation of modern armies. As Foucault3 argued, military discipline "has become a basic technique to enable the army to exist, not as an assembled crowd, but as a unity that derives from this very unity an increase in its forces.... The disciplines function increasingly as techniques for making useful individuals.... Hence the slow loosening of their kinship with religious regularities and enclosures."
Besides unit solidarity and discipline, decoupling is necessary to isolate the soldiers from political pressures exerted by their own social networks, which might thwart the soldiers' commitment to the politically imposed military mission and encourage disobedience or desertion.4 It is true that fuzzy civilian-military boundaries typify citizen armies. Perfect impermeability, the model that inspired Samuel Huntington's writing on the professionalization of the American military, has never been the norm,5 but a minimum level of separation is needed to impose discipline. Such a separation became necessary with the distribution of arms among the citizenry. The mass distribution of weapons enhanced civilian control;6 however, it also required a separation between the citizenry and the military as a means of ensuring that weapons would not be used in domestic disputes. This also addresses the second principle: distancing the military from domestic policing.
The development of surveillance techniques is one of the features of the modern state that enhanced its control over its population and territory and made a resort to violence less necessary. Giddens7 termed this process internal pacification. As part of this process, military violence was distanced from the means of production and civil society in general, inasmuch as the military distanced itself from domestic policing and shifted to the international sphere.8 A separation between the police and the citizen army thus typified modern state building, dovetailing with a decline in internal violence due to the state's monitoring and monopolizing of the internal means of lethality.9 Furthermore, with the introduction of gunpowder and the specialized tactics involved in its use, war became different from repression of civilian protests against the regime — an extreme manifestation of domestic policing — thus encouraging the establishment of police forces with their own unique training.10
Rather than being just a functional division of labor, the military's change in focus to a concentration on the management of external violence became one of the cornerstones of democracy and promoted the military's subordination to civilian control. It helped perfect the democratic system by institutionalizing more equal political competition and protection against arbitrary action by the state.11
Distancing the military from domestic policing, moreover, disengaged the military from rivalry with political groups. It could gradually draw on the working class, which in the past had been the target of internal repression, thereby promoting the universalization of the military. The military was publicly portrayed as transcending the factional divisions of society and embodying national unity, which in turn limited the military's ability and motivation to intervene in domestic politics.12 In turn, the more the military diversified its social sources of recruitment, the more its ability to take part in domestic repression declined.13 Concomitantly, distancing the military from internal politics reduced politicians' dependence on the military to ensure their political survival. Thus, the military's bargaining power vis-a-vis the political leadership decreased as well.
These constitutive principles are typical of citizen armies. Mass recruitment dictates the partial separation of the soldier from his/her civilian environment so that the military can perform professionally. Mercenary forces and compact professional armies are naturally more socially isolated. At the same time, it is precisely the reliance on citizens that encourages the military to distance itself from domestic politics in order to to underscore its status as an entity that stands above politics. As we will see, Israel has strayed from these principles.
Key to understanding the process under study is the realignment of the IDF's social composition since the 1973 War and more particularly, the flawed First Lebanon War (1982). Since the 1970s, there has been a gradual decline in the motivation to serve in the military, particularly among secular middle-class groups, historically the backbone of the IDF. As with other Western armies, this reluctance stemmed from a broader cultural change, central to which was the declining status of the IDF in a liberalized, market-oriented society. Consequently, the secular middle class gradually reduced its presence in combat units.14 At the same time, those who served often protested against what they claimed were unjustified or worthless wars. These groups also expressed a growing intolerance for casualties. In practice, since the 1970s, middle-class groups have created peace organizations such as Peace Now and Four Mothers that base their legitimacy on their activists' military contribution as soldiers and soldiers' parents.15 Organizations of this sort eroded the IDF's operational autonomy in carrying out military policies.16 While support for and trust in the military remained high relative to other nations, the decline forced the IDF and the political leadership to address newly created concerns.
The vacuum left by the secular middle class has been filled since the 1980s by groups previously relegated to marginal roles in the military, most notably religious youngsters. After years of alienation and marginalization, the religious group took advantage of this opportunity, either consciously or unconsciously, to excel in the military and enhance their social status. For religious conscripts, the main symbolic return for their military participation was the chance to carry out the mission of renewing Jewish control over what they perceived as the Holy Land. To a large extent, during the 1970s, the settlement project in the West Bank, imbued with religious meaning, brought Ashkenazi religious Zionism in from the margins of society, turning it into a central political and cultural stream.17
The recruitment of religious youngsters served the military on two levels. On the surface, their participation as high-quality soldiers was required to overcome the lack of manpower caused by the expansion of the conscript military from the 1973 War and the First Lebanon War. On a deeper level, however, the military was able to attract into its ranks what it perceived to be a pool of ideologically motivated soldiers. It made political use of the yeshiva students at a time when it was embroiled in politically controversial fighting in Lebanon — which had driven away a considerable proportion of the secular middle class — and used them later on in the West Bank and Gaza. It thus attracted soldiers who displayed loyalty to the military organization and military thought, soldiers who would not mobilize their civilian networks to protest against the military, as their secular predecessors had done.18
Constrained by these considerations, the IDF tolerated special arrangements that encouraged the recruitment of religious youngsters into combat units. These arrangements began in 1965 with the founding of the yeshivot hesder (arrangement academies), a special program that enabled Torah study in a yeshiva alongside combat service in homogeneous religious frameworks. Later, in the 1980s, pre-military Torah colleges (mechinot) were set up for "spiritual fortification" prior to enlistment as a means of balancing out the military's secular influences.19 By the end of the 1990s, national-religious soldiers started to appear among the ranks of senior officers and increased their presence in field units.20 These young men come from both Israel within the Green Line and from settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It is worth noting that, while religious youngsters serve in the conscript military, the ultra-Orthodox are exempt in accordance with a historical deal with the ruling parties. With the increase in exemption rates (climbing from a small percent of potential Jewish male draftees in the state's first years to more than 10 percent in the first decade of the 2000s)21 the bargaining power of the hesder rabbis increased as well. The IDF began to see them as encouraging their students to serve in the military rather than to seek an exemption.22
As part of this bargaining, the military set up a dialogue with the heads of the yeshivot over the character and terms of their students' military service, the construction of an appropriate cultural and religious environment for religious soldiers, and the rabbis' access to the military camps in which their yeshiva students serve and to whom the students frequently turn for guidance about dealing with the interface between religious and professional issues.23
The Oslo peace process, begun in 1993, increased the bargaining power of the rabbis with the IDF. It occurred at a time in which two processes were accelerating: the secular middle class's increasing reluctance to serve was fanned by the winds of peace. At the same time, the peace process also aggravated uncertainty in the religious community about the future of the settlement project.
At that point, the rabbis, some of whom headed yeshivot hesder, issued religious decisions (Piskei Halacha) banning religious conscripts from participating in the dismantling of settlements, or even military bases, in the Occupied Territories. Some of them explicitly encouraged their students' disobedience, especially on the eve of the disengagement — Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Students sought their rabbis' opinions not only on religious matters, but also about ideologically charged missions. Inasmuch as the rabbis could influence their soldier-students, a "dual hierarchy" was created: the simultaneous subordination of some of the religious enlistees to both their officers and their rabbis.24
In 2003, the IDF went a step further in accommodating the rabbis' interests. In response to their concerns about the apparently negative impact of the growing presence of women in combat units on religious soldiers, the military formulated "appropriate integration" guidelines that regulated the shared life of women and religious soldiers by restricting the women's freedom.25
More significant concessions were made in 2005. The government ordered the IDF to unilaterally withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip and dismantle the Jewish settlements there (approximately 8,000 settlers), along with three more settlements in the northern West Bank. The perceived destruction of the settlement enterprise threatened to return religious Zionism to the status of just another sector in society.26 Let's recall that some rabbis explicitly encouraged their students' disobedience. Nonetheless, the IDF successfully evicted the settlers and maintained unity within its own ranks.
Part of this success was due to the fact that the IDF distanced religious soldiers from the inner circle of forces deployed to physically remove settlers, considered by the religious to be deportation. In other words, the military command accommodated the rabbis' political concerns and deployed the forces accordingly.27
The completion of the disengagement and the flawed performance of the IDF in the Second Lebanon War of 2006 reduced the public's trust in the IDF from 79 percent in 2006 to 74 percent in 200728 and reduced recruitment rates to a level that prompted the IDF in the summer of 2007 to join an aggressive anti-dodging campaign.29 Thus, the IDF's reliance on religious and settler conscripts continued to grow. Again, the IDF's needs coincided with the religious Zionists' agenda. Gradually, the IDF Chief Rabbinate's purview was expanded to permit inculcation of secular soldiers with Jewish values to a level that reached religious proselytizing and ideological socialization.30
Following the disengagement, the focus has shifted to the West Bank as the main arena in which critical decisions must be made to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clearly, the price of this resolution will be withdrawal from most of the territory and the dismantling of many of the Jewish settlements.
For many religious conscripts it became apparent that the creation of a religious critical mass in combat units was necessary. A military with a high percentage of national-religious soldiers and a significant number of officers could not easily be sent to dismantle settlements. Some pragmatic rabbis understood this point and factored it into the argument about the part religious soldiers should play in the disengagement. The mass refusal of religious soldiers to take part in the dismantling of the settlements might have endangered the group's achievements in the IDF. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the settlers' rabbis, argued against disobedience through this logic:
To leave the army is to leave the nation. It is disengagement from the people! . . . If you are not inside, you have no influence. You only harm yourself while others take your place — just as with the left-wing refuseniks....31
Aviner understood the political impact of the religious soldiers' presence in the IDF. In a similar spirit, Rabbi Yaakov Medan,32 a hesder rabbi, highlighted the value of a religious presence in the officers' ranks along with the importance of the IDF's support of the settlement project. Due in large measure to this approach, very few soldiers refused orders to participate in the disengagement. This agenda of increasing the presence of religious soldiers in combat units became more explicit following the disengagement. Against this background, the IDF's deployment in the West Bank became crucial.
MILITARY DEPLOYMENT IN THE WEST BANK
The IDF is the formal authority in the areas of the West Bank under Israeli control. It operates through two mechanisms: the military command, which is in charge of security, and the Civil Administration, which coordinates civilian matters between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. As such, the IDF is charged with enforcing law and order for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers, especially preventing violent clashes and blocking the settlers from illegally expanding their settlements or building new ones. The Israeli Police is the civilian arm that enforces the law, but under the guidance of military commanders. Naturally, however, the military is biased in favor of the settlers over the Palestinians. This bias was strengthened by the deployment of the military force in three circles.
The first circle is Territorial Defense. From the beginning, settlers were permitted to carry weapons for self-defense. In the early 1980s, the IDF empowered the settlers by permitting them to arrest Palestinian suspects. Concomitantly, the militias were incorporated into the IDF in the form of Territorial Defense units under the command of local settlers. They were authorized to police Palestinian villages in the settlements' vicinity. Gradually, the militias deviated from their formal duties and turned to vigilantism against Palestinians — shooting people and damaging property as a deterrent and as punishment. Between 1987 and 2001, they and other Israeli civilians killed 124 Palestinians, among them 23 minors. However, only 10 percent of the complaints against settlers' violence were brought to court, and only 4 percent led to prosecutions. In practice, the armed militias were immunized by the state, which exercised very little control over their activity.33
In effect, Israel armed local inhabitants to form a human defensive shield against majority-Arab populations in place of official IDF manpower. In the terms offered by Martin Shaw,34 the use of Territorial Defense units is "risk-transfer war," in which states transfer risks and "dirty missions" away from their own militaries by activating local allies to assume the missions as "subcontractors."
Historically, Israel has always established settlements to demarcate the border. While the settlers were authorized to defend themselves within the perimeters of their settlement, in the West Bank their scope of mission was enlarged. In this case, the settlers were used by the government or were self-motivated to create facts on the ground that would reduce the ability of any future Israeli government to make a decision to disengage from the West Bank.35 While in the past the governments could use settlers to demarcate the border in a formal manner, in this case, international and domestic restrictions generated informal arrangements reflected in the methods through which settlements were expanded. The residents were also assigned extended military missions, increasing the settlers' bargaining power vis-a-vis the local IDF commanders.
The second circle is composed of the six infantry battalions that regularly serve in the territories and are charged with police activities. These six battalions are united in the framework of the Kfir Brigade. The brigade was officially formed in 2005 to bring together separate battalions, which until then had operated in the West Bank. Its main activity is patrolling the urban areas of the West Bank with the goal of curbing Palestinian terror activity by manning checkpoints and conducting arrest raids.
A significant percentage of the soldiers in the policing battalions are graduates of yeshivot and mechinot or are local settlers whose ideological bias is clear. One battalion (Netzah Yehuda Battalion) is homogenously composed of ultra-Orthodox and religious soldiers. In 2008, half the battalion commanders of the brigade were religious.36 It is reasonable to assume that most of the soldiers, not only the religious ones and the settlers, are ideologically motivated; 70 percent of enlistees rated service in the brigade as their first choice.37 And, as one of the commanders argued, only a handful of potential recruits are interested in the ethical aspect of the operations, despite public exposure of the aggressive conduct of Kfir soldiers toward local Palestinians during 2008.38
The regular deployment of a military force within a civilian community in which it is supposed to enforce the law blurs the boundaries between settlers and soldiers. The blurring is physical — many settlers serve in these units as well, some of the units are deployed in the settlements themselves, and settlements have been built on military bases. But the blurring of boundaries is also cultural, insofar as the commanders try to maintain proper relations with the settlers.
A clear illustration of the blurred boundaries was evident in 2009, when the Samaria Brigade commander ordered his soldiers to reject offers of hospitality from Jewish residents and to eat meals only in military compounds. Unofficially, the commander explained that his decision was designed to avoid talks around the dinner table about politically volatile issues.39 In this case, the commander was trying to re-demarcate the blurred boundaries.
Kfir's actions are only partly controlled. Given that the soldiers have the most interaction with the Palestinian population and are ideologically motivated, it is not surprising that, according to investigations by the Military Police, the main perpetrators of crimes against Palestinians in 2006-07 belonged to the Kfir units.40
Small wonder, then, that protests arising from a spirit of nationalism have come from the brigade. In August 2007, a company composed of yeshiva students in the Duchifat Battalion was ordered to provide perimeter security for the eviction of Jewish families from the market in Hebron. Twelve out of 40 soldiers refused to comply with the order.41 This event also indicated that the military saw fit to implement in the West Bank, as in the disengagement from Gaza, the policy of distancing religious soldiers from the inner circle of forces deployed to physically evict settlers.
A clear example of why such a policy was put into practice is the eviction of settlers from a house in Hebron (the so-called "disputed house") that they had occupied and been ordered by the High Court to leave. In December 2008, the IDF removed the settlers from the house. However, this mission was assigned to special police forces, who took the settlers by surprise,42 not the IDF forces, which had failed to prevent the settlers from barricading themselves in the house.
There were two more incidents in fall 2009. During a swearing-in ceremony for the Shimshon Battalion of Kfir, two soldiers who had just completed their basic training waved signs saying, the "Shimshon Battalion Won't Dismantle Homesh." Homesh is a settlement in the northern West Bank that had been dismantled as part of the disengagement of 2005. However, settlers tried to resettle it, and the Shimson Battalion was called in to block them. This protest was backed by 25 officers and reserve soldiers from the battalion, who, in a letter they sent out, called for an "end to being occupied with all kinds of political whims, and a return to the real national missions — a crushing war against terrorists and enemies."43 In other words, the commanders petitioned against the brigade's involvement in enforcing the law on Jewish settlers. Nevertheless, the two soldiers were sentenced to jail.44 A few weeks later, following the demolition of two illegally built houses in the settlement of Negohot, six soldiers in the Nahshon Battalion unfurled a sign on a rooftop at their base declaring that they would not evict settlers. All were sentenced to jail.45
It was the first time in the country's history that soldiers in uniform raised protest signs, especially during a formal ceremony or within a military compound. Following these events, the IDF set up a task force whose goal was to devise activities that could help dissuade soldiers from disobeying orders.46
The third circle is that of other units, both reservists and regular military, who reinforce the activity in the territories on a rotational basis. An important role is played by the four regular infantry brigades, which occasionally carry out missions in the West Bank. Since the 1990s, the number of religious soldiers in these units has risen. Overall, graduates of the religious mechinot and yeshivot hesder constitute about 10 percent of the army's combat force; the settlers (religious and secular alike) constitute about 5 percent (some overlapping with the previous figure), about double their proportion in the general population;47 and 13 percent of all company commanders in the regular army come from settlements, according to the IDF.48 A large percentage of these groups man the infantry brigades, with a steep rise in the number of religious graduates of the infantry-officer course from only 2.5 percent in 1990 to 26 percent in 2008.49 As of summer 2010, six of the top eight commanders in the Golani Infantry Brigade have been religious soldiers,50 and 20 percent of the company commanders live in the settlements.51 When we consider the religious conscripts, the weight of religious soldiers in the regular combat units is about 25-30 percent.52
What motivates young religious men to enlist is not the need to protect the Palestinians in the West Bank or dismantle settlements, but the desire to "protect our home." Small wonder, then, as argued in an investigation prepared by the Keshev Organization,53 which gathers information on efforts to delegitimize democratic institutions, that tacit cooperation has developed between the settlers and the soldiers, particularly the Golani Brigade in the fragile area of Hebron. This tacit understanding gives the settlers broad latitude to abuse the Palestinian population.
The conclusion that emerges from this mode of deployment is that, apart from the Territorial Defense, with about 10 percent of the soldiers belonging to the organized frameworks of the yeshivot hesder and mechinot and critical masses in the infantry brigades, the rabbis and their students were able to gain influence over the military's values and leverage military service to fulfill their ideological mission. A form of military embeddedness has thus been created.54
Embeddedness implies that units are co-managed by the military command and the civilian networks in which the units are embedded and hence enjoy greater autonomy vis-a-vis the senior command. Thus, the values, beliefs and interests shared by the social groups involved could partly corrupt the military command's code of professionalism and distort the chain of command. Embeddedness is not a form of "subjective control," in Huntington's terms, as the military chain of command is not entirely civilianized. However, embeddedness takes the military far away from "objective control," in which the military establishment and its senior officers are socially and politically insulated from surrounding social forces.
Civilian-military boundaries in Israel have traditionally been blurred, as typified by the model of the citizen army, especially because part of the military burden is carried by reserves who are by nature "civilianized soldiers."55 Partly permeable boundaries have shaped the pattern of civilian control.56 However, embeddedness has elevated this blurring to an extreme, weakening civilian control by over-empowering the influence of the religious sector. When it comes to the IDF's performance in the West Bank, embeddedness has been extended from the cultural realm of the original arrangements between the IDF and the rabbis to the political realm, creating formal and informal arrangements that have thwarted the IDF's ability to accomplish the political goals it was meant to serve.
The impact of embeddedness has gone even further, as was evident in the issue of dismantling illegal outposts. In 1993, Yitzhak Rabin's government pledged to the U.S. administration that it would freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the exception of the "natural growth" of existing settlements. In response, the settlers' leadership shifted their energy to expanding existing settlements and illegally building new ones. In 2003, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a commitment to the Bush administration that he would dismantle those settlement outposts that had been built since he had become prime minister in March 2001, but the government has failed to honor this promise.
The Sasson Report of 2005, commissioned by the government to investigate the growth in unauthorized outposts, presented a picture of dual networks — formal and informal — when it comes to the political-military control of the settlement project. It implied that without the IDF's passive and active cooperation, the illegal settlements could not have been expanded. For example, the concept that any Israeli in the territories should be afforded security led the IDF to protect unauthorized outposts. Likewise, IDF soldiers do not enforce the law and have no interest in functioning as policemen, although they are in the area, and the police are not. Soldiers also allow trailers to be placed in unauthorized locations, thus creating the fact of a new, improvised settlement. In sum, the report said:
The "commander spirit"... sees the settlers' acts [of] building outposts as Zionist deeds, although illegal, and asks them not to inspect such acts through the eyes of the law. This "commander spirit" is nourished by the involvement of State authorities and public authorities in establishing unauthorized outposts.57
As one example of this "spirit," Sasson cited the fact that some IDF officers are themselves residents of illegal settlements and as such convey a clear message to the military forces.58
Thus, whether the military and its political supervisors admit it or not, it is safe to assume that a central consideration in refraining from dismantling illegal settlements, despite the Israeli pledge to the United States, is the simple understanding that doing so would open the military to massive refusals from the very high-quality recruits upon whom it depends in case of war.59
Even when the IDF has successfully dismantled small illegal outposts, the cost of doing so has been steep. Since 2008, the settlers have used a "price tag" strategy, including systematic, widespread and indiscriminate violence against Palestinian civilians and Israeli security forces, to counter the IDF's efforts. Frequently, the Israeli security forces fail to intervene and stop settler attacks as they occur and also fail to arrest suspected settlers on the spot, for the reasons cited above.60
A clear illustration of the military's limited power is the fact that, in 2004, the Defense Ministry used satellites to take photographs of all of the settlements in the West Bank, due to the difficulty of obtaining complete and credible data. It was implied that part of the difficulty arose from the fact that the officer in charge of data collection in the Civil Administration was himself a settler.61
This diminishing of the IDF's space of freedom can be largely explained in terms of the military's deviation from the two constitutive principles of the modern military: the creation of relatively impermeable boundaries between the military and society and the distancing of the military from domestic policing.
Once the military recognized the religious soldiers' needs by making special arrangements to accommodate them, it created the category of "religious soldiers" as a distinct identity with which the IDF communicates in a collective form. The "religious soldier" was no longer a private identity with whom the military established private arrangements (aside from the general laws that enable religious soldiers to observe religious rules); at the same time, the designation meant that such soldiers were no longer just a part of the general collective community of faceless recruits treated equally by the IDF without regard to race, creed or color. Nonetheless, while initially the IDF recognized this category as a cultural one and cooperated with the religious leadership, who wanted to make sure that religious soldiers would not be secularized during their military service, this category was transformed into a political one, mainly following the disengagement.
To recapitulate, the religious leadership bargained recruitment and military sacrifice in return for ideological fulfillment. Constrained by its growing dependence on religious manpower and the belief that the hesder rabbis exert a critical influence on the religious enlistees' motivation and therefore on the flow of human resources, the IDF entrenched the special status of the religious enlistees. Furthermore, despite the ideological agenda of these soldiers, the IDF deployed them in politically disputed missions in the West Bank. By doing so, the military essentially accepted the terms of the "psychological contract" as dictated by the religious leadership. Such acceptance was particularly evident as the religious agenda became more explicit during the disengagement from Gaza and the period that followed it.
Thus, the principle of decoupling civil and military society was heavily undermined. Ideologically motivated soldiers were deployed to "protect our home," whose location was politically disputed. At the same time, the soldiers were partly guided by rabbis as part of their institutional connection to the yeshivot and mechinot. Furthermore, the boundaries between the soldiers, who were there to enforce law and order, and the citizens, namely the settlers, who were supposed to respect the authority of the soldiers, became blurred.
It is true, as mentioned above, that the IDF has never rigidly separated the soldier from his/her home environment. Such a separation is unfeasible in a highly militarized society deploying a citizen army. However, the issue is not one of complete separation, but rather a matter of degree. One can still distinguish between a situation of complete separation (a foreign mercenary) and fully open boundaries (a model of subjective control). The Western military norm stipulated impermeable boundaries; conscripts are physically remote from their homes and fully subordinated to military authority. Embeddedness in the manner of the comanagement of units by rabbis and commanders is far removed from the acceptable level of separation and also far removed from the level that the IDF had imposed from its inception to the 1980s. It is also true that in the state's first years, under political direction, the IDF created the Nahal program, which combined military service and farming. While the leadership of the center-left kibbutz movement was part of this arrangement and negotiated with the IDF over its terms, the political guidance of the recruits was not part of this framework. Therefore, the leaders of the kibbutz movement never exerted the kind of influence sought by the rabbis.
At the same time, the principle of distancing the military from domestic policing was undermined as well. The units, largely manned by religious soldiers and settlers, were deployed to enforce law and order on both the settlers and the Palestinians. When the units were called upon to restrain the settlers, usually over the issue of illegal settlements, the units' bias was apparent, as the Sasson Report clearly indicated. At the extreme, some soldiers refused to comply with their orders, and the threat of disobedience by many other soldiers hangs over the IDF command. Not only did the IDF violate the two principles, it violated them simultaneously: those serving to protect their "homes" were called upon to act against their homes' residents.
Herein lies the main difference between the reality in the West Bank and the conditions that allowed the successful dismantling of settlements in Gaza in 2005. There, the IDF deviated from underlying principles to a lesser degree. The IDF did not serve as a police force among the isolated Gazan settlers. Its main mission was to protect them from the surrounding hostile Gazan population, not to enforce order, especially as the interaction between the populations was very limited. Nevertheless, as the formal military force and the most organized group available, the IDF was called on by the government to evict the settlers in Gaza. To recall, the IDF had to deal with the rabbis' calls for disobedience, calls that affected the units staffed with hesder and mechinot soldiers.
Concerned about its unity, the IDF distanced units manned by religious soldiers from the inner circle of the evicting forces. In addition, part of this mission was delegated to the police force and to improvised units of career officers of various ranks, gleaned from rear units and command posts.62 Therefore, in the case of Gaza, the level of the IDF's involvement in policing missions was lower than in the West Bank. However, as the events described here reveal, disobedience is an issue even in cases where religious soldiers outside of the inner circle are called on to take part in evictions in the West Bank.
At the same time, the level of the decoupling of the military and society in Gaza was higher. The small number of Jewish settlers in Gaza — about 8,000 relative to about 300,000 in the West Bank — was reflected in their minimal presence in the combat units. Therefore, the IDF's permeability to religious influence was balanced out by that minimal presence.
Furthermore, while this minimal deviation from principle helped the IDF overcome resistance, the level of resistance was lower than expected in the West Bank. There, settlers see their homes as the heart of the Holy Land, while those in the Gaza Strip saw the settlement project as a vehicle for social mobility rather than fulfilling a national or religious mission.63 As argued above, the religious soldiers' motivation to disobey was tempered by the fear that doing so could jeopardize their upward mobility in the military and hence their ability to thwart future evictions in the West Bank. From the perspective of the soldiers and the networks from which they come, when such an eviction becomes a real possibility, it will completely divest them of their symbolic assets and their identity, thus easing the dilemma of opting for disobedience and opposition. Unlike in the Gaza event, religious and settler soldiers may see little future benefit in respecting the unity of the military in the short term by refraining from refusing to carry out their orders.
Is this a problematic syndrome of a citizen army? Yes and no. Professionalization of the IDF will increase the separation between military and society, thanks to longer periods of recruitment. Furthermore, the exchange between the state and social groups will shift to the level of military (employer) and recruits (employees). The ability of enlistees to support their families, not ideological grievances, will be the key issue. Soldiers' support for military missions will then be ‘‘purchased'' rather than politically mobilized. As Kier has shown, professionalization helps deploy the army for domestic policing.64 Yet, a professional army autonomously dealing with domestic policing that endangers certain groups' interests, such as those of the settlers, will generate more objections. As the case of the disengagement showed, clashing with a "people's army" symbolizing national unity raises the threshold for opposition to quite a high level.
In fall 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government pledged that it would halt West Bank settlement construction until September 2010 as a means of encouraging the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians over the two-state solution that the government had already endorsed. With the renewal of the talks in September 2010, the U.S. government pushed Israel to keep the peace process alive by agreeing to extend the moratorium, but the Israelis refused; hence the talks were halted.
With talks stalled for months and the possibility that the UN General Assembly might adopt a resolution unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, pressures on the Israeli government mounted.
These occurrences have strengthened the feeling among the settlers that the struggle for future control in the territories is reaching a critical point. At the same time, the growing presence of religious conscripts and settlers in the military complicates the possibility of implementing an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that requires the dismantling of settlements in the manner of Gaza 2005. What is at stake is not only the extent to which the IDF will follow the dictates of the government, but also the extent to which the civilian leadership will refrain from giving certain orders to the military out of concern for its inability to execute politically disputed missions without creating a rift in the ranks. It is not that the IDF cannot find other brigades for the job Kfir is unable or unwilling to do. Even the dismantling of illegal outposts requires more than one brigade, not to mention massive evictions. With brigades heavily staffed by settlers and religious soldiers, this mission is problematical.
One may, however, suspect that the complicated situation presented here is not really a matter of the unavailability of a military means to achieve actual political goals. It is, rather, the use of the military protest by the Israeli government and the IDF as a convenient excuse for not acting effectively against the settlers. This challenging argument can be countered by several assertions.
First, as reported, IDF officers were worried about the possibility of a large-scale refusal to obey orders, should the army be tasked with evacuating illegal settlement outposts. Therefore, it has set up a task force to deal with this challenge.65 Military leaders are typically jealous of their internal cohesiveness and the unified chain of command. Second, the IDF has not intentionally shaped policies that violated the underlying principles. The military was dragged into this situation by the contradictory need to both rule over an occupied territory and fill the vacuum in its ranks left by the gradual retreat of the secular middle class from many positions in the IDF. Furthermore, the development of this contradictory situation increased during the Oslo process, precisely when the military commanders who supported the process came to realize that a withdrawal from most of the West Bank was inevitable. Therefore, it is unlikely that they intentionally worked to create facts that would hinder future moves. As the Sasson Report teaches us, much of the IDF's involvement in creating "facts on the ground" was a mixture of local initiatives and blurred political directives rather than an explicit agenda.
Third, the IDF's formal position is that it prefers the army not be on the front lines of evacuating outposts and that police units specializing in crowd control do the job.66 Concerns about mass disobedience and internal rifts probably guide this position. Even if one suspects that this is no more than an excuse, this fear plays a role similar to that in the syndrome known as "casualty sensitivity." Policy makers and senior military officers may exaggerate the public's sensitivity to sacrifice, and politicians can rely on the military's opinion to justify lack of action.67 Analogically, "disobedience sensitivity," whether real or not, has an impact on policymaking. What is clear is that this sensitivity and the ability to leverage it politically could not have come about had the events described in this paper not occurred, or had the IDF not deviated from the constitutive principles of the relationship between the military, the state and society.
In practice, with such limitations, real or imaginary, the Israeli government may try to rectify its straying from the constitutive principles.
It can try to redemarcate the boundaries between the policing forces and the Jewish community in the West Bank by dismantling the Territorial Defense, or by at least curbing its units' aggressiveness. It can also try dismantling the hesder framework and integrating the religious soldiers within the military as regular soldiers, or distancing the settler soldiers from missions in the West Bank. In 2009, the defense minister did remove a single yeshiva (Har Bracha) from its arrangement with the IDF because its head encouraged its students to disobey orders under certain circumstances. However, the bargaining power of the hesder rabbis, without whom, the IDF believes, many religious soldiers would seek exemptions as ultra-Orthodox Jews, will hamper any real change. Inasmuch as the secular middle class has gradually distanced itself from the combat units, any idea of redeployment is unrealistic; disciplining the powerful local militias struggling over the future of their "homes" is also an unworkable solution.
Another approach is to focus on the second principle by distancing the military from policing missions. Law enforcement in the West Bank would be handled exclusively by the Israeli police. Such a policy may have two contradictory implications.
First, the move to leave all policing tasks to the police is not realistic and requires a serious structural change. Meanwhile, given that the civilian police forces have limited resources, by impairing the state's ability to enforce the law and dismantle settlements, Israel could encounter obstacles in promoting the land-for-peace agenda. Peace opportunities may be missed, possibly reigniting another round of hostilities. Policy makers will be constrained to shape a policy that minimizes settlers' evictions. In practice, the government may delay the dismantling of illegal settlements as long as possible and favor the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders (in areas where settlements do not interrupt the territorial contiguity of the Palestinian state), again delaying the need to evict settlers. This option has already been rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
On the other hand, these constraints may actually generate the opposite result: they may encourage Israel to expedite the deployment of Palestinian security forces in many West Bank areas, an idea that is also consistent with the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders. In this case, Israel would also allow the Palestinian forces to take control of vacated areas, unlike the case of the disengagement of 2005, when three settlements in the West Bank were dismantled but remained under Israel's control. In such a scenario, settlers' efforts to resettle areas from which they have been evicted, such as in the case of Homesh, would be averted. Soldiers then would not be faced with the agonizing dilemma of whether or not to block such resettlement efforts.
Furthermore, the idea of leaving Jewish communities under Palestinian rule may see a revival. It was the draft of the agreement reached by the Palestinian and Israeli statesmen Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and Yossi Beilin in 1995 that opened the door for settlers to be offered Palestinian citizenship or choose to remain alien residents under Palestinian sovereignty.68 This option could be expanded to avoid unrealistic mass evictions. Israel may strive to annex major settlement blocs and leave the isolated settlements under Palestinian sovereignty if the effort to offer the settlers "Voluntary Evacuation and Compensation" fails and eviction by force is ruled out. In exchange, the Palestinians would receive other territories (mainly in the Negev and as a sovereign passage route between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank). There is nothing new in these ideas, but they can be considered more seriously in light of Israel's military limitations. In this way, policing missions would be outsourced to the Palestinians.
If such events come to pass, the over-empowerment of the settlers may bring about results opposite to those they expected and for which they had hoped. Such may be the overall price of not respecting the principles on which the modern military is anchored.
1 Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Vintage Books, 1957).
2 Peter S. Bearman, "Desertion As Localism: Army Unit Solidarity and Group Norms in the U.S. Civil War," Social Forces, Vol. 70, 1991, pp. 321-342.
3 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage Books, 1995), pp. 210-211.
4 Bearman, "Desertion as Localism," op. cit.
5 Rebecca L. Schiff, The Military and Domestic Politics: A Concordance Theory of Civil-Military Relations (Routledge, 2009), pp. 35-37.
6 Elaine Scarry, "War and the Social Contract: Nuclear Policy, Distribution, and the Right to Bear Arms," University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 139, 1991, pp. 1257-1316.
7 Anthony Giddens, The Nation State and Violence (Polity Press, 1995).
8 Mary Kaldor, "Warfare and Capitalism," in Edward Palmer Thompson, Mike Davis and Raymond Williams, eds., Exterminism and Cold War (Verso, 1984), pp. 261-288.
9 Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1992 (Basil Blackwell, 1992), pp. 68-69.
10 Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Vol II: The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 403-443.
11 Charles Tilly, Roads from Past to Future (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997), pp. 193-215.
12 Michael Mann, op. cit., pp. 403-412.
13 Elizabeth Kier, Imagining War: French and British Military Doctrine between the Wars (Princeton University Press, 1997).
14 Yagil Levy, "Is There a Motivation Crisis in Military Recruitment in Israel?" Israel Affairs, Vol. 15, 2009, pp. 135-158.
15 Sara Helman, "From Soldiering and Motherhood to Citizenship: A Study of Four Israeli Peace Protest Movements," Social Politics, Vol. 6, 1999, pp. 292-313.
16 Martin Van Creveld, The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force (Public Affairs, 1998), pp. 353-356.
17 Yair Sheleg, "Religious Zionism as a Full Partner," Haaretz.com, February 20, 2006.
18 Yagil Levy, "The Embedded Military: Why Did the IDF Perform Effectively in Executing the Disengagement Plan?" Security Studies, Vol. 16, 2007, pp. 382-408.
19 Stuart A Cohen, "From Integration to Segregation: The Role of Religion in the IDF," Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 25, 1999, pp. 387-405.
20 Stuart A. Cohen, "Dilemmas of Military Service in Israel: The Religious Dimension," The Torah u-Madda Journal, Vol. 12, 2004, pp. 1-23.
21 Knesset Research and Information Center, Recruitment of Yeshiva Students to the IDF (Jerusalem: The Knesset, 2007).
22 Yair Sheleg, "No Women Or We All Go to the Haredi Battalion," Haaretz, October 14, 2004 (Hebrew).
23 Levy, "The Embedded Military," op. cit. pp. 394-395.
24 Cohen, "Dilemmas of Military Service in Israel," op. cit.
25 See IDF Directive No. 33.0207; and Yuval Sherlo and David Stav, "A Letter to the Enlistee," Hatzofe, July 29, 2005 (Hebrew).
26 Sheleg, "Religious Zionism as a Full Partner," op. cit.
27 Levy, "The Embedded Military," op. cit.
28 Asher Arian, Nir Atmor, and Yael Hadar, The 2007 Israeli Democracy Index (Jerusalem: The Israel Democracy Institute, 2007), p. 44.
29 Stuart A. Cohen, The False "Crisis" in Military Recruitment: An IDF Red Herring (Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University, 2007).
30 Eyal Press, "Israel's Holy Warriors," The New York Review of Books, Vo. 57, 2010, pp. 33-35.
31 Shlomo Aviner, "Stop Dismantling the IDF," Be'Ahavah Uve'Emunah, No. 500, 2005, p. 3 (Hebrew).
32 Yaakov Medan, "The Terror Balance Strengthens Sharon," Nekuda, Vol. 273, 2004, p. 25 (Hebrew).
33 This description is based on Foundation for Middle East Peace, "Israel's Policy of Arming Israeli Settlers Endangers Palestinians in the Territories," Settlement Report, Vol. 4, 1994, (http://www.fmep.org/reports/archive/vol.-4/no.-3/PDF); Neve Gordon, Israel's Occupation (University of California Press, 2008), pp. 141-143; James Ron, Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel (University of California Press, 2003), pp. 169-170; and Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land: The War over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007 (Nation Books, 2007), pp. 111, 318-319.
34 Martin Shaw, "Risk-Transfer Militarism, Small Massacres and the Historic Legitimacy of War," International Relations, Vol. 16, 2002, pp. 343-360.
35 Ian S. Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza (Cornell University Press, 1993).
36 Alex Fishman, and Reuben Weiss, "The Rabbi Said That It Is Necessary to Be Drafted," Yediot Achronot- Simchat Torah Supplement, September 20, 2008 (Hebrew).
37 Amos Harel, "Colonel Virov: Sorry That My Words in Favor of the Use of Violence Affected the Kfir Brigade's Image," Haaretz, August13, 2009 (Hebrew).
38 Hanan Greenberg, "Kfir Brigade Wants You," Ynet News, September 17, 2008.
39 Roi Sharon, "IDF Order: Soldiers Are Forbidden to Eat in Settlers' Homes," NRG, October 2, 2009 (Hebrew).
40 Amos Harel, "Kfir Brigade Leads in W. Bank Violations," Haaretz.com, May 11, 2008.
41 Yoaz Hendel, "No, Commander," Makor Rishon, August 10, 2007 (Hebrew).
42 Efrat Weiss, "Hebron Evacuation Completed within Hour," Ynet News, December 4, 2008.
43 Efrat Weiss, "Shimshon Troops Back ‘Homesh Protest' in Letter," Ynet News, November 11, 2009.
44 Hanan Greenberg, "Soldiers Who Protested Settlement Eviction Get 20 Days in Brig," Ynet News, October 25, 2009.
45 Amos Harel, "IDF Task Force Looks for Ways to End Soldier Insubordination," Haaretz.com, December 11, 2009; and Gershom Gorenberg, "The New Politics of Conscientious Objection in Israel," The Prospect, November 19, 2009.
46 Harel, ibid.
47 This analysis is based on data provided to the author by the IDF for the years 2003, 2006 and 2008, and the following sources: Knesset Research and Information Center, Pre-Military Torah Colleges- An Update (Jerusalem: The Knesset, 2008, Hebrew); Fishman and Weiss, 2008; and Nir Kusti, "Close to Agreement," Bamahane, Vol. 22, 2008 (Hebrew), http://dover.idf.il/IDF/News_Channels/bamahana/08/022/04.htm.
48 Amos Harel, "Army Publication: Settlers Heavily Overrepresented among IDF Commanders," Haaretz.com, September 29, 2010.
49 B (Anonymous IDF Senior Officer), "The Place of Religious in the Tactical Command of the IDF," Ma'arachot, Vol. 432, 2010, p. 53 (Hebrew).
50 Gil Ronen, "Golani Brigade Goes Religious," Arutz Sheva, January 6, 2010.
51 Harel, "Army Publication: Settlers Heavily Overrepresented," op. cit.
52 Cohen, "Dilemmas of Military Service in Israel," op. cit.
53 Keshev Report, A State Captured by Extremists: Extremist Groups That Are a Danger to Democracy in Israel (Keshev, 2000, Hebrew), p. 26.
54 Levy, "The Embedded Military," op. cit., pp. 394-395.
55 Edna Lomsky-Feder, Nir Gazit and Eyal Ben-Ari, "Reserve Soldiers as Transmigrants: Moving between the Civilian and Military Worlds," Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 34, 2008, pp. 593-614.
56 Yoram Peri, Generals in the Cabinet Room: How the Military Shapes Israeli Policy (United States Institute of Peace Press, 2006); and Schiff, The Military and Domestic Politics, op. cit.
57 Talya Sasson, Summary of the Opinion Concerning Unauthorized Outposts: An Interim Report (Israel Prime Minister Office, 2005), p. 45.
58 Ibid., p. 261.
59 Harel, "IDF Task Force Looks," op. cit.
60 United Nations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Price of a Law Enforcement Failure: Israeli Settler Violence and the Evacuation of Outposts (United Nations, 2009).
61 Zeev Schiff, "Israel Mulls Using Satellite to Document Settlement Borders," Haaretz.com, September 6, 2004.
62 Levy, "The Embedded Military," op. cit.
63 Itzhak Schnell and Shaul Mishal, Uprooting and Settlers' Discourse: The Case of Gush Katif (Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies, 2005, Hebrew).
64 Kier, Imagining War, op. cit.
65 Harel, "IDF Task Force Looks," op. cit.
66 Yoel Marcus,"IDF Planning to Evacuate All Illegal West Bank Outposts in One Day," Haaretz.com, July 22, 2009.
67 See, for example, Robert Mandel, Security, Strategy and the Quest for Bloodless War (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004).
68 Foundation for Middle East Peace, Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories (2000), http://www.fmep.org/reports/archive/vol.-10/no.-6/PDF.