The Independent ran an article on Friday about Shaul Mofaz, a contender for the Kadima party leadership and presumably, if it looks like Likud is a better bet for electoral success than Kadima, also a contender for the position of Defense Minister in a Netanyahu government. The article describes a briefing Mofaz gave in May 2001 (when he was Army Chief of Staff) in which he reportedly gave verbal instructions to the IDF's senior commanders in the West Bank that he expected from them seventy dead Palestinians every day.
The significant thing about that article is not what it says about Shaul Mofaz: I don't think he is at all unique among the Israeli leadership in his "kill-em-all-let-god-decide" attitude toward the lives of Palestinian people. The significant thing about this article is not that it happens to be Shaul Mofaz who is speaking, but that it shows very senior Israeli officers considering setting a daily quota of Palestinians to be killed. And that is significant because it confirms the testimony of Israeli servicemen who have come forward to describe how they carried out such a policy on the ground in the Occupied Territories during the al Aqsa intifada.
I've already blogged about Israeli soldiers who talked after the fact about killing unarmed Palestinians simply because on a particular night the IDF chain of command would issue verbal orders that any Palestinian found on the street is "sentenced to death".
And this testimony, from an Israeli (former) officer, specifically describes his experience of killing Palestinians in order to fulfil a quota [emphasis mine]:
Captain T. was the commander of an armed high-speed reconnaissance boat. His naval commanders expected him to have a brilliant military career. But soon after Operation Defensive Shield, T. handed back his equipment and went to India. He came home for a visit, and his mother turned to the Breaking the Silence organization to have an activist talk to him. His story, from the spring of 2002, can explain what can happen to a Palestinian family that goes out for a breath of fresh air on the Gaza shore. His words are quoted with necessary cuts and editing:
"After Defensive Shield two boats went down to the area of Sudaniya in the northern Gaza Strip. We had with us representatives of the navy, of the air force, of helicopter units, and of various participating combat units, as well as people from units on the shore, intelligence, etc. One of the senior officers told us that the Israel Defense Forces was acting in very extensively and said that he wanted 'two dead every night'; 'I want at least two "terrorists" every night,' he said, from the beach front. The feeling was of a revenge mission. We waited, two boats, at a distance of about 2,000 meters from the shore.
"We spotted a patrol on the shore going to the beach outside our target area, on the beach itself. About three to four people sat there at the beach and lit a fire, and we noted some action between the (patrol) group and the fire. We had no other identification of these people, no idea who they were, whether they were armed or not.
"When Naval Task Force 13 signaled that they saw weapons at the site, all of us (on the boat) felt very excited. Night after night boats returned from nightly duty without firing a single shot, and now we had such an opportunity. Our feeling was imbued by the aura of 'Defensive Shield,' the (suicide) attacks preceding it and the tension. No wonder I wanted to shoot. I said 'legitimate target' and had the concurrence of all other ranks up to the one giving the order. And we started firing. We continued shooting, aiming at hitting as many as possible, even those carrying the wounded. The problematic issue was that we didn't really know who was sitting around the fire. It could have been the kid brother of someone there, it could have been ...we don't know. This happened every night.
"Another incident occurred in the southern area of Khan Yunis. Ten people went into a building. Again there was no discrimination between the armed and the unarmed, and you didn't know exactly who was inside. People started coming from the area to help the wounded and into this chaos we fired at figures running in all directions, to take out as many as possible. Like a video game, click, click, click. I wanted to shoot. In my eyes it was legitimate, otherwise I would have refused. I was crazed.
"It is highly probably that on the beach there was a child of 12 who was waiting with the narghile for his big brother to come back from guard duty. A person like that is not a legitimate target. I think that I am a war criminal. Supposing that people come to me now, and I'm on my trip, and they put me on trial at the International Court of Justice, what can I tell them? I know that I obeyed an order that is illegal in my eyes. If a relative were to come to me now, I would tell him: I am guilty. Your child was murdered for no reason because we wanted to bring two corpses every night."
-- Not Just A Security Thing, by Akiva Eldar; Ha'aretz, 20 Jun 2006.
It is the actual killing of Palestinians to meet an arbitrary quota that is the really newsworthy aspect of this story, not whether Mofaz's part in formulating the policy "reinforces [his] image of hawkishness" as he positions himself for a run at the Kadima party leadership.