(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday accused the group of conscientious objectors from an elite IDF intelligence unit of “contributing to the de-legitimization of Israel and the lies against it” by publicly protesting its activities in the Palestinian territories.
“I’ve become familiar with Unit 8200 and its work over the past few decades, most certainly since I was named head of Military Intelligence [in 1995],” Ya’alon said in a statement. “I got to see first-hand the scope of the contributions that the unit’s people made to the security of Israel’s citizens.”
“The officers and soldiers of the unit do important work, day and night, and they do this with exceptional creativity and a dedication that is simply remarkable,” the defense minister said. “Unit 8200 perpetuates the existence of the State of Israel.”
“Attempts to harm it and its work, by means of calling on others to refuse orders because of claims that are inconsistent with the unit’s core mission and the values of its people, are foolish and contemptible," he said. "It is an attempt that helps the de-legitimization efforts against Israel and the lies spread around the world about the IDF and its soldiers, through no fault of their own.”
Israeli politicians and prominent military and defense personalities continued to weigh in Saturday on the controversial letter signed by dozens of IDF reservists from the elite intelligence outfit Unit 8200
protesting its methods of operation in the West Bank.
Labor Party chairman and opposition chief Isaac Herzog, who served in the unit during his time in the military, condemned the letter, saying that the army cannot countenance soldiers refusing orders.
“I oppose refusing orders, and I detest it completely,” Herzog wrote on his Facebook page. “This unit and its operations are vital not just for wartime but also, and in particular, during times of peace. When we speak of a diplomatic arrangement and delineating borders, we talk about early-warning stations and intelligence capabilities that are used to identify and stop extremist forces that will do all in their power to sabotage peace.”
“I’m not saying that mistakes aren’t made,” Herzog continued. “There may have been [as mentioned in the letter], and Israel’s military history is replete with them. But there are ways to lodge protests and to bring these issues to the attention of the relevant authorities. I also think that there are ways to bring about change whenever one has a sense that an injustice has been committed, but not by encouraging the refusal of orders or launching a global media campaign that is damaging, the price for which will be paid by us, the citizens of Israel.”
Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Saturday that IDF soldiers’ refusing of orders is a "social explosives belt that reflects moral bankruptcy of the education system."
"Officers who could compare Israeli intelligence-gathering to the German Stasi, which spies on its own citizens and not terrorists are twisting history and do not deserve to serve in the most moral country in the world," she posited.
Hotovely called for IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz to remove them from service immediately and the Israeli Left to reflect on how it led young people to refuse to defend their own people.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Rothschild, the former coordinator of government activities in the territories who spent a large chunk of his military career in Military Intelligence, told a town hall gathering in Holon on Saturday that the letter written by the conscientious objectors “should not have been sent.”
“Without Unit 8200, Operation Protective Edge would have looked completely different in every aspect,” he said. “The letters that were sent – both by the opponents and the supporters – should not have been sent. We are part of a democratic society in Israel, and both letters should not have been sent.”
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