The security which the Israel Defense Forces provides for Menachem Livni - a former leader of the Jewish terrorist underground - is unjustified and wasteful, claim reservists who completed a tour of duty in Hebron last week.

The reservists say that sufficient security for Livni can be provided by civilian guards, and that the troops used for protecting him are more urgently needed to safeguard the roadways used by the many Israelis living in the area.

Livni was convicted for playing a leading role in the Jewish underground during the 1980s and was sentenced to life imprisonment, but released after six years, in 1990, when president Chaim Herzog pardoned him.

Since then, he has been cultivating a plot of land east of Hebron, at the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Bani Naim.

In the past there have been a number of violent incidents in the vicinity. During a bomb explosion near Livni's land in June 2002, three Israeli pupils were injured; in September that same year IDF troops shot and killed four Palestinian workers who approached the area, suspecting them of trying to carry out a terrorist attack.

The reservists, members of an Armored Corps unit, told Haaretz that they had been asked to guard Livni closely, on an almost a daily basis, for several hours each time, when he went to work in his fields.

The reservists said that according to the orders given by the brigade command, securing Livni was a priority task, surpassing the securing of roadways.

"Therefore, either three soldiers were stationed there, or we canceled a jeep patrol in the area during the hours that Livni was in his fields. The soldiers were required to stay near him," they explained.

In response the IDF spokesman said that "working the plot of land is legal and its owner is entitled to do so as is every farmer. The plot in question is in a dangerous area. To deal with the threat, the IDF is securing the work there, and allowing the owner to exercise his right as a citizen."