The military on Saturday said it was no longer loaning soldiers to the Israel Police to assist in the enforcement of the national lockdown, following internal concerns that the program was ineffective and external criticism over the use of troops to break up political protests.
The Israel Defense Forces said the troops currently involved in such police operations would return to their units in the coming days.
The military said the soldiers would be replaced by members of the Border Police.
The IDF, in turn, will “increase security missions, in place of the Border Guards, in the Judea and Samaria region,” the military said, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
The move came amid criticism from inside and outside the military over the program.
On Thursday, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said it was “not one of our most effective missions.”
As of Saturday night, several hundred soldiers were taking part in police enforcement operations.
In some cases, this has put them at the heart of political arguments, most recently on Tuesday when protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filmed themselves at a roadblock outside the Knesset scolding a soldier for participating in action against political activists.
In light of the incident, the military and police agreed to remove all IDF troops from Jerusalem, where protests are more likely.
“We are not putting them in points of friction,” Zilberman told reporters. “And if new points of friction come up, we’ll talk to the police.”
There has also been criticism that police have generally not been enforcing the lockdown efficiently, setting up roadblocks on major highways without actually preventing people from violating the restrictions, creating massive traffic jams for no clear reason.
After the incident on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz referred to the deployment of soldiers outside the Knesset as a “mistake” and said it wouldn’t be repeated.
“Positioning IDF soldiers close to protest centers is a mistake that has already been taken care of and will not be repeated,” Gantz said in a statement.
Header: Israeli soldiers [paratroopers] wear face masks at a police roadblock in Tel Aviv during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, September 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)