Bennett backtracks on IDF order refusal remarks

Bayit Yehudi leader expresses concern over possible negative effects of his comments on youth who view him as role model.

Naftali Bennett 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Naftali Bennett 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett says he was wrong to have declared on a recent TV interview program that as a reservist in the IDF, he would ask to be exempted from orders to remove settlers from their homes were he in such a position.
“I am a major in reserve duty and I was bothered by the damaging impact of my words to young people who view me as a role model. I reached the conclusion that I don’t have the right to say even that private comment about myself, because of its repercussions,” Bennett said on Sunday during a “Meet the Candidates” event at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.
“Every combat soldier who gets an order, and it is not a lawful order, has to obey it, and this includes Naftali Bennett,” he added.
He was referring to a comment he made a week ago on Nissim Mishal’s Channel 2 show on the subject of removing settlers.
“It is an integral part of being a soldier to refuse orders on matters of conscience,” Bennett said at the time.
“I would not call publicly to refuse orders,” he added. But he went on to say that “when a black flag flies over an order, you don’t carry it out. To expel people from this land is a horrendous thing. I will work with all my soul and with all my strength not to allow that to happen.”
In the IDF, soldiers are taught they they should refuse an order if it is patently illegal and immoral, such as targeting civilians.
Bennett’s words on Mishal’s show drew fire from across the political spectrum.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said Bennett crossed a dangerous line, because such words from people in his position amounted to “a call to civil disobedience, no less.” Israel and the IDF are strong enough to absorb refusals from the extreme fringes of the Right and Left, she said, but as Bennett leads a major party and may hold a cabinet ministry in the next government, his words hold more sway.
“When refusal penetrates into the mainstream of society and its leadership, it endangers us as a society, a people and a nation,” she said. “Refusing orders is dangerous because it undermines the democratic foundations of the country.”
“It’s anti-state and it questions the decisions of a government that is democratically elected by the nation,” Yacimovich added.
Vice Premier and former IDF chief-of-staff Moshe Ya’alon said that Bennett’s words hurt both the IDF and the political Right.
“This statement, first of all, hurts the IDF, because the army is founded on carrying out orders,” Ya’alon said in an interview with Army Radio.
The Tzipi Livni Party candidate Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern on Friday said any call to defy orders, whether from the Right or the Left, should be condemned.
“Calls that up until now were the purview of extremists have turned into a dangerous political line,” Stern said, adding that attempts to split the loyalties of religious youth were “not ethical, not legal and not Zionist.”
Niv Elis contributed to this report.