BET EL MILITARY BASE, West Bank - Israel's military, taking a page from the Pentagon's counterinsurgency playbook, has changed tactics in the West Bank by emphasizing improvements in Palestinian living conditions, rather than focusing solely on killing and capturing militants.
The shift, however, is threatened by personnel changes: Three generals who were instrumental in planning it are on the way out.
Israeli forces are refraining from airstrikes or shelling, tactics they once used frequently to attack suspected militants. Instead of daytime raids with large battalions, commanders have turned to more surgical strikes by commandoes, which are less disruptive to the civilian population.
"Part of our philosophy is to fight the terrorists with M-16 [rifles], not F-16 [jets]," said Brig. Gen. Noam Tivon, one of the leaders of the shift.
Gen. Tivon ended his tour as commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank this week. Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of Israel's Central Command, is changing jobs in the coming weeks, and the Department of Defense's Civil Administration commander Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is due to finish up within the next year.
Some officers have voiced concern about the continuity of the trio's policies. One incoming general has little experience in the West Bank and came up through the ranks as a tank commander; some military analysts say that background means he could be the wrong person to oversee a strategy that calls for using less force and keeping a lower profile.