Ex-chief rabbi instructed IDF soldier to refuse orders

One of nine IDF soldiers who refused their commanders’ orders to enforce the closure of the Gaza Strip to Israelis over the weekend, was instructed to refuse by former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. The soldier placed a call Saturday evening to a close associate of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who was with the former chief rabbi at the time. The soldier asked Eliyahu if he should participate in the blocking of Gush Katif. Eliyahu spoke with the soldier for some 10 minutes, asked him numerous questions and finally instructed him not to cooperate in any way with matters concerning the disengagement, but to continue to serve in the IDF and obey all other orders that were not related to the pullout. The soldier was one of nine who refused on Saturday night to follow orders and participate in an operation to prevent Israeli citizens from entering the Gaza Strip. All nine, two of whom are in hiding in Gush Katif and now considered AWOL, are hesder yeshiva students, who combine intensive religious study with military service. A 10th IDF soldier was tried and jailed Sunday for 21 days after giving an interview to Channel 2 television and denouncing the army’s behavior toward the settlers. A few weeks ago, the same soldiers who were involved in Saturday’s incident requested not to help set up a base near Kibbutz Re’im, in the Negev, for the forces that would be taking part in the pullout. Their request was granted. On Thursday evening, during a briefing ahead of the deployment to Gaza, the soldiers warned that they would not be able to participate in „the expulsion of Jews.” On Saturday night, when they were sent to the Kissufim checkpoint, 12 soldiers declared their intent to disobey orders; three subsequently folded under pressure from their commanders. BPI.

The two soldiers who deserted their unit are students at a Gush Katif yeshiva and are believed to be in Neveh Dekalim. The IDF is searching for them. The army takes a very serious view of the matter and all nine soldiers will be brought up on disciplinary charges within the coming days, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said in a statement. In recent days, senior IDF officers have expressed concern about the atmosphere at the hesder yeshivas. According to the officers, a number of prominent rabbis are openly calling on their students to refuse orders, while others are speaking „in two tongues,” giving some soldiers the impression that they permit refusal. ‘They weren’t punks’ The individuals who clashed with soldiers at the Kissufim checkpoint on Saturday „were not a group of punks but a group led by the [Gush Katif] residents,” Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Halutz was very critical of the settlers, adding, „It wasn’t a protest, but violence for the sake of violence against Israel Defense Forces soldiers …. It was a deviation from the boundaries of legitimate protest. People came with wire-cutters and managed to cut a part of the fence.” „You must take a strong-handed approach,” interjected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. „I instruct you to stop the protesters from getting in and to prevent harm to IDF soldiers with all the force required.” According to Halutz, „Thousands of soldiers and police are in the field to deal with two tasks mortar and Qassam fire by Hamas, and preparation for the protesters. The IDF is ready for a full ground operation.” Commenting on the incident at the Kissufim crossing, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said he had instructed the defense establishment to refrain from any provocation when confronting the protesters. With regard to the hesder yeshivas, he said there were no plans to sanction them. „But I am keeping an eye on what is going on there, and everything will be dealt with in time,” he added. „The phenomenon of refusal and the violence must be forcibly dealt with, but freedom to protest must not be undermined,” said Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Education Minister Limor Livnat echoing his sentiments. Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz suggested that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz order an investigation into former chief rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu, who are calling on soldiers to refuse to participate in the pullout operation. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, went even further, calling on Mazuz to indict the former chief rabbis for „incitement to disobey and order and sedition.” Yahad-Meretz MK Ran Cohen said that the phenomenon of refusal at the hesder yeshivas was a bigger threat to the IDF than the threat posed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Cohen called for the disbanding of the yeshivas. BPI-info