The Jewish Press Online reported Tuesday that on Sunday, soldiers in the IDF Tze’elim base in the Negev confronted local Bedouin they suspected were trying to steal military equipment. The IDF investigated the incident and released its findings, according to which a chase ensued during which Bedouin vehicles surrounded a military jeep, a menacing crowd was formed and one officer fired a warning shot in the air (IDF Soldiers Circled and Threatened by Israeli Bedouin on the Highway, Officer Fires Warning Shot).
Now, it turns out, the soldiers were wrong to pursue the Bedouin thieves, and, according to Kipa, Tze’elim base Commander, Colonel Ohad Maor, has issued an order against future chases after equipment thieves.
Breathe… It gets worse…
ההפקרות בצאלים נמשכת
בדואים מהנגב מקיפים קציני צה״ל אחרי עוד שוד מבסיס צאלים ומרדף שהסתיים בצורה מאוד מטרידה מבחינת צה״ל. דובר צה״ל בתגובה: הגשנו תלונה במשטרה pic.twitter.com/07UPzmghZL
— צחי דבוש (@TsahiDabush) June 2, 2020
Above: the encounter between Bedouin thieves and an IDF officer (also Bedouin).
The IDF spokesperson issued a statement Tuesday, saying that “during a training session in the Tze’elim base shooting area, several officers identified a suspicious attempt to steal military equipment from the training site and pursued the suspect vehicle. During the pursuit, additional suspicious vehicles arrived and surrounded the jeep of the force in a threatening and delinquent manner. The officers reported to the Israeli police about the incident and stopped at the side of the road. In response to the dangerous crowding around them after they had stopped, one of the officers fired a shot in the air. Police arrived at the scene and filed a complaint against those involved in the incident.”
You may recall that our report very sarcastically followed the above paragraph with, “Just to be clear, the complaint was filed against the Bedouin, not the IDF soldiers, because down in the wild Negev you never know.” And you probably figured we were being excessively cheeky. In fact, we were as deadly serious as a Bedouin shabariya point pressing against the neck of an IDF soldier.
In his detailed report on his investigation following the incident, Col. Maor wrote that “the military’s role is to prevent theft and not to conduct chases,” and ordered that “no pursuit of Bedouins will be carried out – such a chase is life-threatening with the risk of the vehicle overturning.”
Which inevitably brings to mind the proven fact about many other things the military does being life-threatening – yet we frequently urge our military to push on regardless of the risk. Indeed, Israel devotes upwards of $20 billion annually to its military budget in the hope that said military, in return, continue to do those life-threatening things so that we won’t have to.
Col. Maor ordered increased security around the sleeping quarters and in the training areas where lots of IDF equipment is usually exposed to Bedouin looting, and stressed that when a “theft incident” (so help me, that’s how he put it: תקרית גניבה), soldiers may only fire warning shots in the air, exercise the proper rules of engagement, and “if there is a concern for human life, action must be taken to neutralize the danger.”
Back in November, 2019, during a tour of Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal Zamir at Tze’alim, he discovered failures, gaps and deficiencies in the streamlining, safety, discipline and compliance processes of the base. At the same time, there were failures regarding the general appearance of the base, which included a torn flag, dirt and grime everywhere, filthy bathrooms, faulty routines and improper budget management.
Is it possible they were all out chasing after Bedouin?