Chief of staff: Refusal is 'a danger to Zionism'

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 20-Oct-04 | Author: Amos Harel and Yuval Yoaz| Source: Ha'aretz

Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon at a service honoring fallen naval servicemen in Ashdod yesterday.
Ya'alon yesterday lashed out at rabbis who are urging religious soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements, saying the rabbis must not put the IDF "in impossible situations."

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon yesterday lashed out at rabbis who are urging religious soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements, saying the rabbis must not put the IDF "in impossible situations."

Today, Major General Elazar Stern, the head of the IDF's manpower division, will discuss the issue with the heads of the hesder yeshivas, [combining Torah studies with army service]. Several hesder rabbis have joined the call for refusal.

Ya'alon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who also denounced the call for refusal yesterday, spoke at an annual memorial service for fallen naval soldiers in Ashdod.

"The phenomenon of refusal is dangerous to us as an army, as a society and as a state," Ya'alon said. "It is illegitimate and inappropriate. Refusal is a danger to Zionism. IDF officers and soldiers know how to carry out the missions assigned them by the political leadership- and we will do so professionally, with the understanding and sensitivity mandated by the complexity of these missions.

"Calls for refusal by political and spiritual leaders confront officers and soldiers with a difficult dilemma. The tasks are difficult, and the burden on officers and soldiers is heavy. Don't put us into impossible situations," he said.

Ya'alon said the IDF's strength as the army of the people of Israel comes from its unity of purpose and the public backing it gets. "We must not impair the IDF's strength. I call on everybody, from every part of the political spectrum, to demonstrate responsibility and not damage the IDF, because we have no other army."

Mofaz, terming refusal a "terrible danger," added: "The IDF is what unites all the different parts of this nation. Don't endanger this. Beds side by side in the same tent, [sitting] in the same tank ... young men from Peace Now and Gush Emunim serving [together]. That is our greatness and the source of our strength. Refusal to execute an order will rend the nation ...

"I admire and respect men of Torah and the rabbis, but the call by certain rabbis for refusal is intolerable and must be condemned. Refusal will lead to disintegration. I urge the rabbis who called for refusal - recant, don't disintegrate us. Keep the IDF and the security services out of political and diplomatic controversies."

Today's meeting between Stern and the hesder rabbis was scheduled two months ago, but the refusal issue is now expected to dominate the agenda. Over the last week, some 60 rabbis have publicly called for refusal, led by former chief rabbi Avraham Shapira, a leading figure in the religious Zionist community.

Stern, who is himself religious, public attacked similar rabbinic calls for refusal after the Oslo Accords were signed 11 years ago. At a separate event, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also denounced the calls for refusal yesterday.

Speaking at an Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu termed refusal a cancer that must be uprooted. "I have warned in the past against the phenomenon of refusal, which I denounce and condemn, and which must be uprooted and opposed," he said. "All leaders, irrespective of their political opinions, must stand up and consistently denounce this phenomenon from every platform."

Netanyahu dismissed the views of various public figures on the left who opposed right-wing refusal but who have defended left-wing refusal on the grounds that it served a lofty purpose.

He said: "I won't argue about what is loftier. But this is an absurd approach. Army service is not conditional upon the soldier's ideological worldview. When you mix in political considerations, you destroy the foundations of the army, and thereby destroy the foundations of the state, and this must be stopped."

He also denounced threats of violence against political figures, calling it "a spreading cancer."

Nir Hasson adds:

Leaders of the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza canceled yesterday's scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They said it would serve no purpose after the failure of Sunday's meeting between Sharon and the heads of the Yesha Council of settlements.