A senior IDF commander was reprimanded on Wednesday after saying that the military and the settlement movement are “one and the same” during an appearance at a settler event that was not coordinated with the military.
Brig. Gen. Roy Zweig, who heads the Samaria Regional Brigade in the northern West Bank, made the remarks in a Jerusalem Day speech Sunday to local yeshiva students at the Elon Moreh settlement.
“It has often been said that the army and the settlement movement work together. I disagree with that, I think the army and the settlement movement are one and the same,” Zweig said, adding that those who claim they work together were seeking to “differentiate between the two groups.”
The comments sparked criticism from left-wing pundits, who charged they were further proof of an inappropriately close relationship between the Israel Defense Forces and West Bank settlers, which they say comes at the expense of Palestinians and prevents soldiers from acting against settlers who break the law.
In a statement, the IDF said Zweig was summoned for a “clarification conversation” with his superior, Judea and Samaria Division commander Avi Blot, who pushed back on the content of the remarks. Blot also noted Zweig attended the settler event without getting an okay from the military.
An officer familiar with the matter told the Walla news site that the decision to reprimand Zweig came from IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.
Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich lambasted the IDF’s decision to reprimand Zweig, saying his remark had been completely accurate “and a thousand humiliating capitulations by the IDF’s senior command to attacks from the left and the Haaretz newspaper will not change this.”
Zweig made headlines last month when he ignored IDF Central Command chief Yehuda Fuchs’s orders concerning the refurbishment of Joseph’s Tomb, located in the Palestinian city of Nablus. Fuchs had coordinated the renovation of the vandalized holy site with the Palestinian Authority to limit clashes with local Palestinians during the IDF’s entry into Area A of the West Bank, where the PA is designated full control. The sides had agreed that media would not accompany the soldiers and settlers repairing the site, but Zweig invited reporters anyway.
During the operation, Zweig told his soldiers on the radio that they had entered the holy site “not as thieves in the night, but as sons of kings” and that “we too are privileged to restore the honor of the land and the people of Israel.” He subsequently came under fire for the use of such messianic rhetoric during an official military operation.
Earlier this year, Zweig appeared in the trial of a young settler who was accused of carrying out a “price tag” hate crime against Palestinians, testifying to the good character of the suspect, a resident of the illegal Havat Gilad outpost.