(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After declaring that its response to insubordination would be heavy handed, the IDF decided last week to backtrack on its punishment against two soldiers who waved a banner against a military action, allowing them to return to the hesder track from which they had been expelled.
Last November, Achiya Melamed and Malkiel Horovitz from the Nahshon Battalion waved a banner reading "Nahshon also does not evacuate" from the rooftop of a building in their base in the South Hebron Hills, shortly after Border Police razed two illegal homes in the Negohot outpost, following the example Shimshon soldiers set a month before during the evacuation of Homesh, when two of them held a banner reading "Shimshon does not evacuate Homesh."
Melamed and Horovitz were suspended and expelled from the hesder track they were part of, thus placing them in a normal military track, as part of which they would have to serve three years of active service. Most hesder students serve 16 months of active military duty, but Melamed and Horovitz signed on for an additional eight months in order to be section commanders.
Last April, the soldiers requested of IDF's OC Manpower Maj- Gen. Avi Zamir that they be returned to the hesder track, and the Hesder Union also began advocating their cause to many different bodies in the IDF.
Colonel Gad Agmon, commander of the IDF draft and induction center in Tel Hashomer (Meitav), recently told the union that following his recommendation, Zamir decided to return the soldiers to the hesder track. They will accordingly be completing their active military service in the end of July, and returning to the Elon Moreh yeshiva for an additional stint of study. Agmon noted that the decision reached was made due to the army's will to enhance its cooperation with the Hesder Union, and following the IDF's impression that the insubordinate soldiers' remorse was sincere.
Hesder Union CEO Eitan Ozeri praised the IDF's move, which is “an expression of the firm and longstanding bond between the hesder yeshivot and the army.” Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, who heads the Elon Moreh yeshiva, thanked the military for their decision in a letter, and the Hesder Union for their efforts in promoting the move. Levanon has on more than one occasion reiterated his support for refusing military orders under certain circumstances.
Zamir’s decision to allow the soldiers to return to the hesder program was met by surprise due to the IDF’s initial declaration following the incident that it would not tolerate soldiers who refuse orders or call on others to refuse.
In response to the claims, the IDF Spokesman's Unit said in a statement
that the soldiers had expressed remorse for their actions in a letter
they wrote several months ago to Zamir.
“After the soldiers who
were involved in waving the protest flag wrote the letter, head of the
Manpower Division Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir summoned them for a hearing with
the commander of the IDF’s Meitav Branch to interview the soldiers and
consider the possibility of allowing them to return to hesder,” the IDF
statement said. “After the soldiers expressed deep remorse for their
actions during the interview head of the Manpower Division decided to
permit them to return to hesder.”
The IDF further noted that the
soldiers will still complete 24 full months in active military service
in comparison to the 16 months that most hesder students do. In
addition, Zamir said that the IDF would not tolerate any future
incidents in which soldiers refuse orders.
“If there are additional cases in the future they will be handled with
the full severity of the law,” Zamir said.