Will the IDF’s new open fire rules fix or create problems? – analysis

Sometimes politics, efficiency and the law conflict.

New IDF open fire regulations announced Sunday that allow troops to use live fire against people trying to steal guns and other weapons from military bases will likely help reduce some of the wave of killings of Israeli Arabs.

The logic is that if there are fewer illegal weapons circulating, many of which were so far stolen from isolated and poorly defended IDF bases, there will be fewer killings.

Furthermore, it seems insane and infuriating that there is an ongoing problem that Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Bedouin criminal gangs are able to easily supply their weapons needs by stealing weapons from the greatest military power in the region.

Therefore, it is difficult to argue against the new rules from the perspective of policy outcomes or efficiency.

IDF soldiers guard a fence near the West Bank. (credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

If the narrative is that what allowed the thieves to steal the IDF gun bases was that the soldiers were too worried that they might hurt the thieves, then it seems obvious to be a bit more aggressive in protecting such lethal weapons from criminals. .

However, the devil is in the details and, in this case, in the law.

There are many areas of competing multiple viewpoints where Israel can feel free to take more aggressive interpretations because it is dealing with large terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that would take down the Jewish state if they could.

This is not one of those areas.

The new rules do not relate to some kind of concerted attack by Hezbollah or Hamas forces on an IDF base.

Obviously, that would be a serious military threat and no questions would have been asked even before Sunday’s announcement about the use of firepower to kill and detain those attackers.

Rather, the question is what use of force is legal against one or two bandits, who cannot even be armed, and who cut through an IDF fence to a military base and sneak past the guards in the area to steal one. certain amount of weapons. out of a storage area and then run away and earn money.

If they are unarmed, the bandits do not pose an imminent threat.

In fact, some of those bandits don’t even use the weapons themselves and their plan is mainly to sell them to others to make money.

Is it legal to shoot to kill thieves?

In most democracies in 2021 the answer is an unequivocal “no”.

In the past, there were more democracies that had rules that allowed homeowners to shoot burglars to kill, even if it might appear that they were on the run, based on the idea that anyone who robbed a home was aggressive enough to be prepared. to murder the owner and older notions of “A man’s house is his castle.”

Few democratic legal systems support shooting robbers fleeing under such circumstances in 2021.

Maybe a military base is different?

Can the IDF argue that someone who is brazen enough to rob from a military base, and whose goal is to steal deadly weapons, is in a different category of posing a broader danger to society, even if he does not present a danger? imminent for the soldiers? confront them?

There could be some political arguments for this that it doesn’t matter if the thieves intend to kill someone and that the fact that they intend to sell deadly weapons to others who are likely to kill is enough to allow the use of lethal force on them. .

In the US, only “less than deadly force” is allowed “to prevent destruction of Department of Defense property” or to arrest someone, such as a thief.

“Lethal force” can be used to prevent theft or sabotage of assets “vital to national security” or related to “critical national infrastructure.”

Presumably this would include shooting to kill a thief trying to break into a nuclear facility, but not a thief running away with some guns and ammunition.

All of this means that the IDF may be opening a new front for the International Criminal Court and critics in the global media to descend when the next thief is killed dozens of meters from the base while on the run.

No one knows how the ICC will decide what to deal with Israel, but Jerusalem may want to be careful in giving The Hague new excuses to move into a future conflict.

The other problem is that it is not clear that shoot to kill will solve the problem.

Many of the robberies have been found to occur at least partially within jobs or on bases where there are virtually no guards or where defenses and guards in place are close to zero effectiveness.

Giant bases with a few guards at the front gate simply require resourceful thieves to figure out which small parts of the base are not being watched.

So one scenario is that Israel begins to encounter new scandals of dead thieves fleeing, while at the same time continuing to steal guns and weapons from poorly defended bases or where theft is an inside job.

Another approach would be to get serious about protecting countries’ internal bases, rather than just borders, and put in place a more serious system of checking where guns go so that one or two rotten apple officials cannot maintain their own. black market deals. without being caught.

Time will tell if the new policy reduces illegal shootings or creates more headaches than it solves.


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