'Zero tolerance for insubordination'


IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi blasted the recent Kfir Brigade protests against settlement evacuations, declaring, "There is no room for insubordination in the IDF." During a visit to the Tel Hashomer Induction Center along with members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (FADC), Ashkenazi alluded to the apparent influence of rabbis on soldiers to refuse orders. "This is my message to the religious leadership: soldiers answer to one authority only, and that is their commanding officers," he said as he addressed a crowd of new recruits. Noting a six-percent increase in motivation among youth to enlist in combat units and a continued drop in overall draft numbers, the IDF began its November draft on Sunday as hundreds of youths arrived at the Tel Hashomer Induction Center to enlist in the Golani Brigade. Sunday's draft welcomed hundreds of highly motivated youths to the decorated Golani Brigade, among them 270 olim. All of the youths were drafted into one of the three units that they requested in application forms sent to them last year. According to the IDF, 73.7% of November recruits eligible for combat service expressed their wish to serve in fighting units - the highest percentage in decades. Youths "recognize the security challenges" Israel faces, remarked OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir later on Sunday. Speaking on Army Radio, Zamir said that last winter's Operation Cast Lead and improvements in the IDF's image since the Second Lebanon War had contributed to the rise in motivation among recruits. The number of draft dodgers, however, was said to have increased in recent years. Zamir stated that at present, 25% of Israeli 18-year-olds do not serve in the IDF, 13% of them due to religious exemption. He also stressed that in light of recent cases of insubordination, "the IDF must be expunged from political debate." Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who chairs the FADC, also addressed the recent occurrences of disobedience in the ranks of the IDF. "The IDF will not tolerate any displays of insubordination," he said at Tel Hashomer. Habnegbi went on to stress that there were no plans to close any of the Hesder yeshivas that had become a lightening rod in the recent controversy, concluding that the goal of such yeshivot - established for the for the purpose incorporating military service with religious studies - was to strengthen the IDF. Last week, in the latest act of insubordination, six soldiers from the Nahshon Battalion were suspended and punished by their commander for waving a banner reading "Nahshon also does not expel," from the rooftop of a building on their base in the southern Hebron Hills, and shortly after the Border Police razed two illegal homes in the Negohot outpost. Later in the day, Ashkenazi referred to recent reports of progress in talks to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, saying that such reports had already caused damage. "Israel has a deep commitment to bringing Schalit home and we are making every effort to do this, but those efforts should be kept behind the scenes," he told Israel Radio. "Reports of progress do not contribute to solving the issue," he continued. "It would be wrong to respond to such reports, which have already caused damage." Concerning the northern front, Ashkenazi said there was no escalation in tensions. "We're closely following developments on all our borders, but there have been no changes that can testify to an escalation in the North, and there are no extraordinary tensions." Yaakov Katz contributed to this report