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Coalition MK echoes claim IDF general favors Palestinians, calls for Gallant’s ouster

Far-right coalition MK Limor Son Har-Melech on Wednesday repeated claims by a Likud lawmaker that the military’s top officer in the West Bank places the well-being of Palestinians above that of Israelis, and also said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant should be replaced.

“I unequivocally back the comments by MK Avichay Buaron,” Son Har-Melech, of the Otzma Yehudit party, told Kol Berama radio, referencing Buaron made Tuesday about the head of the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox. Fox “consistently ensures the welfare of Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria, and [is] against Jewish residents,” she said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

Taking aim at Gallant, Son Har-Melech declared that “the time has come for a defense minister that cares for the right.”

“He knowingly endangers the lives of Judea and Samaria residents,” she claimed. “I would prefer a different defense minister who will care for the settlers.”

Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, has clashed with members of the coalition over what they view as exaggerated efforts to combat settler violence.

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Fellow Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzhak Kroizer responded to Son Har-Melech’s remarks on Army Radio, saying: “That is not the way. We must preserve the dignity of those who give their lives.”

In an interview Tuesday with the Kan public broadcaster, Buaron charged that for Fox, “allowing movement rights for Palestinians is more important than hermetically protecting Israelis,” sparking backlash from the military and from Gallant, with both putting out statements backing the top officer.

Chief of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox speaks to reporters at the Salem checkpoint in the northern West Bank, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Buaron later doubled down on his comments, saying that even IDF major generals can be criticized: “I am sorry that Fox and others interpret substantive criticism as a personal attack, even when the criticism is said with respect.”

On Wednesday, he claimed in an interview with Army Radio that “since [Fox] entered the role in 2021, the terror attacks have doubled. He brought with him an attitude of tolerance to the Palestinian population,” decrying efforts to improve their welfare in the West Bank.

“This government harms the IDF and Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to condemn these remarks,” Lapid tweeted.

National Unity party chair Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, praised Fox and similarly called on Netanyahu to stand up for the military.

“There has never been a coalition whose members have harmed the IDF like the current one, and never has there been a coalition whose members have been so blind to security considerations,” Gantz tweeted.

“It’s acceptable to criticize the IDF, but exploiting difficult terror events to make a personal attack while accusing the IDF of encouraging terrorist attacks is dangerous, promotes law-breaking, and harms security,” he tweeted, adding such remarks could spiral into nationalistic Jewish terror acts that put soldiers in the firing line.

Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari told the Ynet news site that she had full faith in the military, and called for an end to the attacks on the “professional and excellent officer.”

FILE: Likud MK Avichay Buaron speaks at a press conference near the Knesset in Jerusalem, calling for the coalition’s planned judicial overhaul to be passed, June 12, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In May, settler activists put out banners with Fox’s picture along Route 60 — the West Bank’s main north-south highway — that read: “The harassment of the settlement [enterprise] continues — six evictions within a week.” They were criticizing the general for authorizing the demolition of illegally built structures.

Heads of the IDF’s Central Command have repeatedly come under fire by some settler groups over the years for what they felt was insufficient action against security threats or egregious action against illegal Jewish settlements.

Fox, who is in charge of troops in the West Bank, called an unprecedented deadly settler rampage in the West Bank town of Huwara earlier this year a “pogrom.”