Minister Matan Vilnai answers complaint by MK Orbach, who says drill in which reserve soldiers had to defend themselves against a settler holding a knife to their throats by shooting him to death is politically motivated. 'Knives have been pulled out before, we must prepare troops,' says Vilnai.
Kfir Brigade settler troops threaten mutiny - Friends of soldier sent to jail after he deserted the army since his home was razed in Havat Gilad settelment swear loyalty to rabbis over commanders, whom they call 'ignorant'. 'Lack of confidence between soldiers, command has reached critical point,' says one.
Minister Matan Vilnai gave the government's comment on an IDF drill simulating clashes with West Bank settlers.
"Soldiers are trained to fire at those firing at them," he said. "Knives have been pulled out before, and not just once or twice, to be used on car tires. I am not sure it will not go further then tires."
Vilnai was answering a question put to the government by MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), who complained about a drill in which reserve soldiers had to defend themselves against a settler holding a knife to their throats by shooting him to death.
The Knesset was in an uproar over the query, during which Orbach intimated that the drill constituted incitement against the settlers.
"There was no scenario of a gang of leftists pulling out knives or firing at soldiers in Bil'in. There was only a settler with a knife. This makes a political statement," the MK explained.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin added that "what is being said here, Mr. Minister, is that scenarios have an effect on public trends of thought".
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) also intervened in support of the settlers. "Do you know of any past case in which a settler threatened a soldier with a knife or weapon? Must we drill every type of imaginary scenario?" he asked.
But MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) took the government's side. "We shouldn't play innocent. Rabbi Dov Wolpo suggested recently that his supporters fire at soldiers. This is not a scenario, it is a terrible deterioration," he said.
Vilnai stood his ground. "I was trained to, whenever someone threatens me with a weapon, do everything in my power to escape. I have been threatened eight or nine times, and the fact is that I am standing here while those who threatened me are not," he said.
"The IDF trains for scenarios that may happen. It is our duty to prepare soldiers for complex, non-routine situations." Vilnai added that he found nothing political or ideological about the drill.
Kfir Brigade settler troops threaten mutiny
Settler Soldiers from the Kfir Brigade stood firmly by their colleague who deserted following the destruction of his home in the West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad by the Civil Administration.
Two of Shimon Weisman's friends told Ynet they placed loyalty to their rabbi above obeying their commander, and others threatened the brigade commander with mutiny.
The Kfir Brigade has become known for its soldiers' identification with settlers. "We have to ask why such behavior repeats itself in this brigade," one of the soldiers told Ynet.
"We think the brigade commander is behaving with continuous ignorance, which in turn leads to police ignorance in the whole story of Havat Gilad and the treatment of Shimon Weisman." Weisman was found guilty of desertion and jailed.
But the former soldier's friends are now threatening mutiny. "In the past the army knew how to work well with the different populations serving in it and considered their needs. The brigade commander and brass cannot decide that they are going against their soldiers with defiance," one of the soldiers said.
Another soldier said Weisman was "deceitfully" brought to the base and judged before the brigade commander, "who decided ahead of time to dismiss him" from the army. "Many soldiers, not just from our regiment, came to support him and said that if he goes to jail, they follow him," he said.
The soldiers have also published a letter signed by 70 troops, who urge the commander to accept Weisman back into the ranks. "The letter is meant to send the brigade commander a clear message: If he and the other commanders continue with this behavior they will remain alone with no troops," one of the organizers said.
He added that the soldiers were planning a protest Saturday night outside the prison in which Weisman is being held and that they were expecting attendance from throughout Israel. "Lack of confidence between soldiers and the command has reached a critical point," he explained.
Another soldier said commanders were alarmed by the level of support shown for Weisman among their troops. "There were some who asked to help Weisman rebuild his home," he said. However, rabbis advised the two not to break military regulations, he added.
Later the two soldiers were asked whether they are loyal to their commander or their rabbi, and they answered the latter. "Now (the commanders) want to try them or summon them to a talk in order to dismiss them from the regiment as well," the soldier said.
"This behavior must stop. In the end we will all have to announce our support of them and our loyalty to the rabbis," he warned. "The friends of these soldiers have vowed to support them and create chaos if they are dismissed."
Click to view image: 'Havat Gilad homes razed '
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