Israel vows to protect its military from politics

JERUSALEM (Reuters): Israeli leaders vowed on Monday to keep the country’s conscript military free of politics after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave far-right coalition partners increased control over security forces and settlements in the occupied West Bank.

While Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party retained the Defense Ministry, which runs the authority that coordinates policy in the West Bank, it ceded some settlement policymaking to hard-line politician Bezalel Smotrich. Ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir commands border police as national security minister.

The coalition make-up has raised questions about authority over a military that is designed in part to serve as a melting pot for a fractious Israeli society, as well as how it will handle tinderbox territories where Palestinians seek statehood.

“I will ensure that outside pressures — political, legal and others — stop with me and do not reach the gates of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces),” Defense Minister Yoav Galant said at the appointment ceremony for the new top general, Herzi Halevi.

Halevi, who though raised in a Jewish religious-nationalist home has avoid public displays of piety or politics, said: “We will preserve one IDF — purposeful, principled and professional, shorn of any consideration that is not related to defense.”