IDF Dismisses 6 Officers Who Signed Refusal Letter

Central Command Commanding Officer Moshe Kaplinski dismissed from the army late Sunday night six of 34 Israel Defense Forces reserve officers who signed a letter stating they would refuse orders to evacuate settlements. The decision came after a day of talks between the sides Sunday, during which no agreement was reached.

The IDF plans to discharge the rest of the signatories as well if they do not retract their signatures from the letter.

The IDF had demanded that the signatories, settlers who served in the Ramallah-area, retract their written statements. These included the declaration that instructions to evacuate settlements are "a patently illegal order over which flies a black flag."

Since the letter was published on Thursday, there have been talks on the matter. On Sunday morning, the six most senior officers met with their brigade commander, Colonel Miki Edelstein. Edelstein reiterated his demand that they remove from the letter the call on political leaders not to delegate settlement evacuation to the army. The officers rejected the demand, and after a number of hours the meeting ended with no results.

Another meeting was scheduled with Kaplinski for the evening. Several new wordings were discussed in this meeting, but talks remained stalled. Finally, close to midnight, Kaplinski informed the officers they would be dismissed.

The signatories had toned down their position Friday after IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon announced that any officer who fails to retract his signature would be stripped of his rank and ousted from the IDF.

In an attempt to clarify their stance, the officers presented Edelstein, with a letter stating their reservations - in principle - regarding refusal of orders. However, the revised phraseology was apparently deemed an insufficient retraction.

Several hundred reserve officers and combat soldiers who live in settlements signed a counter-petition Friday to protest the refusal of their fellow officers to carry out evacuation orders, Israel Radio reported.