From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article by Gili Cohen was published byHaaretz on 3 April 2013.
“IDF provides security for all West Bank settlements – regardless of legal status“
By Gili Cohen
One quarter of all illegal West Bank outposts are regularly guarded by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
These 25 unauthorized outposts are guarded by a special force tasked with “community protection.” Soldiers from the force typically spend a full week at a time guarding and protecting the outpost where they are stationed.
Every professional army officer who does not serve in a front-line unit must spend one week a year protecting these settlements. They must do a regular tour of duty in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley or the Kerem Shalom region near the border of Gaza and Egypt.
Protection duty is assigned to both regular and reserve officers. In 2010 and 2011, for example, numerous reserve officers were assigned to guard the unauthorized Givat Assaf outpost, where some 30 families live.
The High Court of Justice heard a case involving Givat Assaf in 2007 and later ruled that the homes must be evacuated because they were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Yet to date evacuation has repeatedly been postponed.
Other illegal outposts where reserve officers are stationed include Givat Dagan, which according to the NGO Peace Now has some 30 residents; Eshtemoa in the south Hebron Hills, which has some 40 residents; and Mitzpe Yair, where eight families live.
The IDF has also added troops to larger illegal outposts such as Mevo’ot Jericho, which has 100 residents; and outposts far from army bases.
According to a Central Command officer, the IDF provides some form of security for all settlements, regardless of their status under Israeli law. He said evacuation orders come from the political echelon, and that the IDF will continue to provide security until it receives orders indicating otherwise.
“The army provides security for illegal outposts too, since this is a military issue only. … Every community can be protected, and it is irrelevant whether it is legal or illegal,” said an officer who previously served in the West Bank.
Some illegal outposts − because they are located near other, large settlements, or are satellite outposts of those settlements − are guarded by regular army units who are on operational duty in the area. Some are guarded by units stationed in the settlements to provide security.
Many settlements have switched in recent years to hiring private security companies to provide civilian guards.
Over the Passover holiday, 12 reserve soldiers were assigned to guard the illegal Booster outpost next to Negohot, where 10 of the mobile homes were empty as the settlers celebrated the holiday elsewhere.
Local security coordinators are in charge of the guards on duty in their communities. These coordinators are usually employed by the local authorities or the nearby settlements.
The commander of the regional brigade decides which settlements and illegal outposts receive soldiers for guard duty. These brigades also have an officer who works with the security coordinators and various other bodies.