IDF okays guidelines for dealing with refusal

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 24-Feb-05 | Author: Amos Harel| Source: Ha'aretz

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon approved this week guidelines for dealing with soldiers who refuse to evacuate settlements, as part of the army's preparations for implementing the disengagement plan.

He also decided that units slated to take part in the evacuation will begin "mental preparation" in the near future.

Ya'alon met with senior IDF officers Monday to finalize the army's handling of these issues, after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz approved last week the army's plan for carrying out the evacuation itself. Although the police officially are to physically evacuate the settlers while the IDF provides external security, they have said they will need substantial backing from the army to deal with evacuation opponents. Therefore, the General Staff believes a sizable number of soldiers will end up participating in the evacuation. This task will be given primarily to career soldiers, cadet officers and female soldiers, including military policewomen.

The "mental preparation" will be coordinated by the Chief Education Officer's staff, assisted by psychologists from the Department of Behavioral Sciences. As part of the preparation, the Education Corps will soon distribute a "disengagement kit" containing recommendations for commanders over how to deal with difficult issues. During the past month, officers in units likely to participate in the evacuation already have begun discussing the duty to obey orders with their soldiers. The "disengagement kit" is supposed to supply a broader intellectual base for these discussions as well as prepare soldiers for difficult situations they might encounter during the evacuation.

Opinions are divided within the army over how many soldiers actually are likely to refuse to evacuate settlements. Nevertheless, Ya'alon stressed at Monday's meeting that the army cannot accept any political refusal, whether from the left or right. Therefore, no exemptions will be given to soldiers who say they are uncomfortable with the evacuation; exemptions will be given only to those with close relatives in the settlement they are slated to evacuate. Ya'alon made this decision, because he feared that giving exemptions to anyone who asked would encourage "gray refusal" - evading the mission without openly refusing.

The guidelines also state that refusers will be dealt individually, not collectively. Every soldier who declares his intent to refuse orders will be summoned immediately for a conversation with his commander. If he recants, no action will be taken against him (although a disciplinary note might be inserted in his file), but if he stands firm, he will be tried. Whether the trial will be a disciplinary proceeding or a criminal one will depend on the circumstances' severity.

Officers who refuse will be treated more harshly than ordinary soldiers, and in most cases will be ousted. Officer cadets will be ejected from their courses.

Reservists who refuse will be treated with the full force of military law only if their unit is actually slated to be called up to help with the evacuation. Reservists who opt for a "symbolic" refusal, since their units have no chance of being called up for the evacuation, will be charged with the lesser offense of abusing their rank or their uniform rather than refusing an order, since there is no order for them to refuse.

Cases of actual refusal, as opposed to declarations of intent, will be treated with the utmost severity, army sources said: The soldiers will be jailed and ousted from their units.