Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has ordered IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz to deal with the soldiers who urged insubordination in the Intelligence Corps’ Unit 8200 “as if they were common criminals,” Channel 10 reported Monday.
Speaking at the Fourth International Cybersecurity Conference at Tel Aviv University, Ya’alon said, “Using military service, be it by regular troops or the reserves, for political purposes in unacceptable. It is a felony.”
He deemed the letter published Friday by a group of 43 soldiers as “politically motivated disobedience. I will not allow the military to be used this way,” he said.
Meanwhile, 10 times as many soldiers and commanders from the IDF Intelligence Corps’ Unit 8200 have signed a letter denouncing the claims made by the soldiers, who stated they would refuse to continue serving in their current roles.
The counter-letter, signed by 431 people, expresses “absolute rejection” of the content in Friday’s letter, and its authors intended to present it on Monday morning to Ya’alon, Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Military Intelligence Director Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the call for insubordination by Unit 8200 soldiers, calling false accusations made for political purposes “unacceptable.” The prime minister stressed that the “baseless” slanders included in the letter would not undermine the vital work done by Unit 8200 personnel.
IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz used his Facebook page to respond to the original letter, writing, “There is no place in the IDF for insubordination. There are disagreements and there are political positions. We in the IDF comprise a common denominator, maybe the broadest one in Israeli society, and are careful about expressing political opinions in forums not intended for that purpose.
“So what do I think happened here? Military service was exploited to express political positions. And we in the IDF see that in the severest light and will take swift, clear disciplinary action.”
Almoz said Military Intelligence had discovered that only one-third of the 43 signatories to the letter of insubordination were actively involved in intelligence gathering, and only one had performed active reserve duty in the past five years. Only two of the 37 signatories identified by the military had done reserve duty this past year, and none of them were called up during Operation Protective Edge, Almoz wrote.
As of Monday morning, no disciplinary action had been taken against the 43 soldiers who signed the letter.
‘A selfish, sanctimonious act’
In response to the declaration of insubordination, the brigadier-general who commands Unit 8200 — whose name cannot be published — sent a memorandum to his soldiers on Sunday stating that while it was appropriate to discuss the issues raised, members of the unit should do so with their commanders, and not via the media. He presented an example of an officer who encountered a dilemma during Operation Protective Edge. The officer reported the matter to his superiors, and it was addressed.
A group of ultra-Orthodox soldiers, who served in Unit 8200 after completing a special training program, also voiced their opposition to the letter published Friday.
“We want to express our shock at the letter by our unit comrades, who chose to involve [their own] political considerations and declare their unwillingness to serve reserve duty in the unit,” they wrote in a letter of their own.
“As haredi soldiers who have had to set aside various opinions and considerations in favor of meaningful IDF service, we see no place for those kind of statements in the IDF. From the moment we are called to the colors, we show up proudly and courageously,” the haredim declared.
Many politicians also criticized the letter of insubordination.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) wrote on her Facebook page: “The refusers’ letter is a cynical, manipulative exploitation of their military service for a political protest.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) called it “a clear political declaration that incites against the IDF and was published just as the world was criticizing us harshly.”
Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich told the refusers she was “angrier [with them] than people on the Right are. Because I don’t believe in ‘managing’ the conflict, but solving it. By this selfish, sanctimonious act of yours, you didn’t cause any harm to the state, but you did hurt the Zionist Left. This collection of shallow, childish cliches, this exploitation of the IDF, this biting the hand that feeds you and will keep feeding you for the rest of your lives, this boundless arrogance — you’ve dragged us farther back.”
‘A delusional letter’
Cultural figures also had plenty to say. While writer Amos Oz expressed support for the refusers, writer Eli Amir was critical: “This is a very bad, delusional letter. We can’t be more righteous than the pope when we face a brutal enemy,” he said.
Like Oz, writer Haggai Linik, who was awarded the Sapir Prize for Literature in 2011, threw his support behind the refusers, telling Israel Hayom: “I’m immediately behind any group of people who band together and say they just can’t take it anymore.”
“You can’t escape it. The occupation is a sick evil that corrupts the soul. Anyone who attacks them harshly and crudely and anyone who blindly defend their actions is missing their point, in my opinion. They aren’t violating their roles, they want to talk about what disturbs them, so the Israeli society understands the price its children pay to be an occupier,” Linik said.