The former head of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)’s Central Command has harshly criticized the Jewish state’s decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories.
"We are the world champions of occupation," Major-General Gadi Shamni declared at a Wednesday conference organized by the IDF’s Institute for Policy and Strategy held in the Israeli city of Herzliya.
"I was a general and champion of the occupation, but… is this what we want to be?" Shamni, who served as IDF commander in the occupied West Bank from 2007 to 2009, asked.
"Every step we take should emanate from a single strategic objective -- separation from the Palestinians," he said.
He went on to assert that the IDF was currently "controlling a population of 2.5 million civilians [in the occupied West Bank, which] diverts the army from its primary function."
"The IDF is having trouble preparing for the threats facing it," Shamni said. "The army’s morale and capabilities are drained; it has become a punching bag for the politicians."
The former commander added: "Israel will never agree to an arrangement [with the Palestinians] that doesn’t meet its security needs. The only acceptable solution is an agreed-upon separation from the Palestinians."
Under international law, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are both seen as "occupied territories" and all Jewish settlement building on the land is considered illegal.
Roughly 500,000 Israelis currently live in more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestinians want these areas -- along with the Gaza Strip -- for the establishment of a future state.
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