Opinion: The seemingly uncaring fighters of the predominately religious battalion are the front line of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict but have only their own moral compass to guide them

In disturbing images released lately, Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, the 78-years-old Palestinian was seen lying on the ground in the freezing cold, while a soldier stands by with his hands in his pockets and his weapon slung over his shoulders.

The soldier is obviously more disturbed by the cold than by any threat from the elderly detainee.

התמונה האחרונה של עמאר אסעד
Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad hours before his death


These images are a reflection of reality West Bank. Without clear borders, there is no clarity.

Soldiers there, before they embark on a mission there are required to calibrate their guns, gear up with flack jackets and helmets and must also ponder the morality of their actions.
“A moral failure and poor decision-making”, that’s how IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi called the behavior of his troops following As’ad’s death last month.

The incident took place during an counter terrorism operation. The forces stopped vehicles for inspection and As’ad was in one that refused to be checked.

He was taken to the yard of a nearby building, where other Palestinians detainees were held. His hands were bound and his eyes covered. After his ultimate release from custody, he was found dead.

In what has become acceptable behavior, higher ranks direct responsibility down the line to the commanders in the field. It has worked out for them. It is always the lower ranking officer who is responsible.

In As’ad’s death the local commanders were punished. They were sacked.

“We take full responsibility,” one said. The company commander, an outstanding officer, failed morally and now he sits at home. As far as the military is concerned, the case is close. But what of the lesson?

פעילות לוחמי צה"ל מגדוד נצח יהודה בראמללה
97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion soldiers at the West Bank


The 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which consists of Haredi men and residents of the West Bank settlements, is complex. These soldiers, who, until a few years ago, never imagined they would be wearing military uniforms and holding weapons, now face the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a daily basis.

They are the ones who deal with terror attacks, stone-throwing incidents, and provocations. They are the frontline, and that is why they are worn out and as a result, eventually, fail.

The IDF chooses to keep them on their assignments for 10 months a year claiming their deployment provides them with the best training experience.

But what is demanded of them is not only to maintain a high operational readiness but also a high moral judgment.

From time to time, a soldier will encounter situations like the one that ended with As’ad’s death. Other times, when a soldier hesitates and withholds his fire, he may also be dismissed for neglecting to act.

אירוע חריג בכניסה לקדומים, מחבל משליך בקבוק תבעה על חייל ובורח
Footage from 2020 of the assailant approaching to the IDF soldier stationed in the Neot Kedumim Junction, and throwing a Molotov cocktail at him


One such incident occurred when a member of the Golani Brigade neglected to open fire on a Palestinian terror suspect who then hurled a fire bomb at him.

Local commanders say there is no clear policy directives from higher up, making their jobs more difficult and blurring moral lines.

The lack of a clear policy on the West Bank extends to illegal outposts and the need to evacuate them, clashes with rioting settlers, and Palestinian illegal settlements such as Khan al Ahmar

The troops on the ground follow what they think is right. But a 19-year-old boy is left only the moral values that he was thought at home, and unfortunately he does not always make the right choice.

As reported by Ynetnews