Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon met yesterday evening with settler leaders, who warned him that thousands of religious soldiers "would not be able to" carry out orders to evacuate settlements under the disengagement plan.
The meeting in Tel Aviv, the first in a series between the two sides, also was attended by the deputy chief of staff Major General Dan Halutz, OC Southern Command Dan Harel, OC Central Command Moshe Kaplinsky and his slated replacement Major General Yair Naveh.
The General Staff has been concerned by the radical tone of recent settler declarations, including some directed against the IDF, and especially the possibility that soldiers would refuse orders in massive numbers. Last night's meeting did nothing to assuage these concerns, as Yesha leaders said they could not dictate the nature of settler resistance.
The leaders told Ya'alon that they are opposed to violence and to refusing orders, but predicted that thousands of conscripted and reserve troops would refuse to take part in the evacuation, either officially or by finding ways to evade assigned tasks.
"I share with you concern about refusal, but this is out of our control," Yesha Council Chairman Bentzi Lieberman told Ya'alon. "We agree with you that this is dangerous, but the solution isn't in our hands, but rather resides with the political echelon. We can come to the [settler] public and tell it not to disengage from the nation only after it has had its say, prior to disengagement, in elections or a referendum."
Ya'alon told the settlers he expects them to lead the opposition to disengagement in a responsible manner.
The settlers said the evacuation order is neither moral nor legal, and they would be willing to go to jail, and even call upon the public to do the same, within the framework of legitimate democratic resistance, that would be primarily passive, yet massive, resistance.
Some 5,000 soldiers already have signed petitions pledging refusal of various degrees.
Yesha leaders asked that Ya'alon demand from the government not to involve the IDF in the evacuation.
The Yesha Council this morning is launching an open-ended sit-in across from the Knesset under the banner "The transfer won't go." A roster has been drawn up for the coming two weeks for residents to take daily turns occupying the area between the Finance Ministry and the Israeli Museum.
Meanwhile, left-wing politicians were concerned by Sunday's Haaretz report that "hilltop youth" from the West Bank were reinforcing anti-disengagement efforts in Gush Katif. MK Avshalom Vilan (Yahad) asked Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to hold an urgent discussion on the matter in the Interior and Environment Committee. MK Ran Cohen (Yahad) said these teenagers harbor the threat of civil war.