IDF to avoid Arab towns when traveling to the front in next war

This will not hinder the IDF, nor will the fact that the army relies on Arab transport companies, says outgoing chief of logistics in a farewell interview.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The IDF has marked out a thousand miles of dirt tracks to use to get to potential front lines in war instead of driving on roads running through Arab towns, Maariv reported in its weekend edition.

In an interview with the paper, the army’s outgoing chief of logistics, Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Turgeman, said that this action was undertaken because, “I’m really concerned about…the impact of violent disturbances on internal security and movement of transport convoys.”

This was one of the lessons he said he learned from May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, when Israel responded to Hamas launching thousands of rockets indiscriminately into the country and Israeli Arabs rioted in support of the Gazan terrorist organization.

Although the violent protests took place almost exclusively in cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations such as Lod, Jerusalem and Haifa, Turgeman, who is retiring after 34 years of service, said that he foresaw these kinds of incidents as “having significant potential to delay the ability to coordinate the IDF’s forces.”

What could happen in all-Arab towns could also be a concern. During the recent army drills in the north, the Arab Israeli municipality of Umm al-Fahm published an open letter saying that the army presence was “unacceptable and hurtful to residents’ feelings.”

It’s “not worth the investment” of the heavy amount of forces that would be necessary just to use certain traffic arteries when there are other ways to get to the front, Turgeman said.

When asked if this might not create a problem from the psychological point of view, as if the IDF is afraid of traveling on roads in the State of Israel, he answered in the negative.

“We are not afraid,” he said. “In time of war, the IDF will do what is right to bring its forces to the war scene as quickly as possible, and we have enough other alternatives.”

Besides the issue of what roads to use, another issue of concern raised was the fact that many drivers the IDF uses are hired through civilian companies – and many of them are Arabs. Turgeman rejected the claim that hundreds of Moslem drivers did not show up when called during the May fighting due to nationalistic motives.

“No, no,” he said. “There was a holiday at that time, Eid al-Fitr. We summoned them at 10PM without declaring a state of emergency in the country, and I’m not sure if it had been a case of [the Passover] Seder night, for example, that all Jewish drivers would immediately report in a case not defined as a state of emergency.”

While he said that many of the drivers did show up the next day, Turgeman added that he has set up a volunteer unit of “over a thousand” men, “mostly officers,” with driver’s license for vehicles of over 15 tons, “who will come in any circumstances.”

In a Sunday article in the same paper, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick, who has sounded the alarm for years regarding the infantry’s poor preparedness for war, pointed out the specific danger of the IDF relying on civilian companies to supply drivers in case of need.

“Hundreds of core logistical units (many of which were not allowed to be privatized) were privatized and transferred from the army to civilian companies, most of whose employees are Arabs,” he wrote. “The probability is very high that they will not come to work in the next war.

“The result is that the Arab and Bedouin extremists in the Arab localities will block the roads and threaten that they will not leave their homes to help the IDF in the war. We’re talking about thousands of truck drivers and carriers who are supposed to transport armored vehicles, food supplies, equipment, ammunition, fuel and more. We’re talking about hundreds of civilian trucks; mechanical engineering equipment operators (such as tractors, bulldozers and cranes); garage workers who fix cars; and professionals who repair military equipment that will break or be damaged in action.”

“This will bring the IDF to a standstill in the first hours of the next multi-arena war,” he warned, blocking it from being able to defend the state, “and certainly preventing it from going on the offensive.”