Photo Credit: IDF website
Israeli Arab drivers refused to transport armored vehicles and troops during Operation Guardian of the Walls, May 2021.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked at a closed session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, about dealing with Israeli Arabs who would join enemy forces during a multi-arena war. According to a Reshet Bet Radio report on Monday, Netanyahu replied that the IDF is preparing for this: “10 battalions are training for this thing.”

According to the report, although the issue was not raised in Netanyahu’s original review of security issues, during the questioning phase, the prime minister was asked whether the security apparatus was prepared for an all-out war in several arenas, which would also include combat against rebelling Israeli Arabs.


The Prime Minister replied that the army certainly addresses this, and takes such a possibility into account in preparing training. “The IDF is preparing for this,” Netanyahu said, “there are ten military battalions training for this thing. It’s still not enough, but they are preparing for that very day. They are being prepared for this thing.”

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser has written that “the violent riots by groups from among Israeli Arabs during Operation “Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021 were the largest of their kind since the establishment of the state, although the number of casualties was lower than the number of casualties among Israeli Arabs in the October 2000 riots. They occurred simultaneously in a large number of mixed cities (Acco, Yafo, Haifa, Lod, Ramla), in Arab concentrations in Galilee, the Triangle, the center, and the Negev, and the areas adjacent to these areas. They included dangerous physical violence against Jews and Jewish property (lynching attempts, arson, shooting, vandalism, damage to vehicles), damage to symbols of the state that targeted its essence as a Jewish state (burning state flags and changing the inscription on road signs in a way that nullifies the Zionist enterprise), and verbal violence in the form of incitement against the state, its identity, its residents, and its security.”

“Although many Israeli Arabs did not take part in these violent riots, only a few came out against the expressions of violence, and most of those who objected to the violence also showed an understanding of its motives, even if they didn’t justify injury to life and property. Many of the leaders of the Arab public justified the riots using sophisticated, roundabout language,” Kuperwasser noted.

And the most crucial fact, according to Kuperwasser, “the intensity and scope of the violent riots shocked and astonished the Jewish public, the government in Israel, and the security agencies, including the Shin Bet and the police. It was much more than a mere surprise. No one in the governmental systems had imagined that an event with these characteristics could take place at all.”

An Israel Police patrol car burns in Lod, where synagogues and cars were torched amid riots by the city’s Arab residents, May 12, 2021. / Yossi Aloni / Flash 90

Dr. Martin Sherman, who served as a ministerial adviser to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, wrote shortly after the May 2021 riots: “These riots were not the product of socio-economic grievances, but of hostile national-ethnic identification with Israel’s enemies, determined to destroy the Jewish nation-state. After all, it was not a socio-economic hardship that forced Arab rioters to tear down the Israeli flag and raise in its place the flags of the enemy, under whose regime their socio-economic situation would have deteriorated dramatically.”

“The inevitable conclusion that must be drawn from this unfortunate record is that Israel behaved with excessive and harmful tolerance not only toward blatant displays of disloyalty on the part of Israeli Arabs but also of their open identification with Israel’s enemies – even during hostilities,” Sherman suggested.

In November 2021, Israel Hayom reported that in the next war, the IDF will mobilize reserve forces that will operate in civilian areas, to ensure that the army’s activities are not disrupted by Israeli Arab elements.

Another important decision that was reached following the lessons of Guardian of the Walls: truck and bus companies that contract to carry IDF armored vehicles and troops between fronts were ordered to get rid of their Arab drivers. In May 2021, a large number of Arab drivers refused to show up for work, leaving security forces stranded.

The main concerns are the disruption of troops’ movement on the major roads, the blocking of secondary roads, and attempts to damage the military and Border Guard bases. The police will be mainly preoccupied with riots in the cities, police officers are going to be diverted to managing highway military traffic and protecting bases. This will create shortages in the mixed cities, which will be filled by IDF reservists.

Recently, during routine training, IDF units avoided the Wadi Ara highway that runs through the Arab Triangle towns and villages such as Umm el-Fahem. This is a crucial highway, connecting the coastline with lower Galilea. In the future, multi-front war, the security apparatus must come up with an effective way to neutralize this population that threatens not only the transportation of essential vehicles and troops, but also the Jews of Hadera at the eastern end of Wadi Ara, and Afula at its western end.

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