Refuseniks, Pro-peace Generals Fail to Reach Deal

Senior officers of the anti-occupation Council for Peace and Security and a group of reserve officers and soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories failed this week to formulate a joint statement.

Over the past several days, the sides tried to work out a joint statement that, according to the refuseniks, would focus on the dangers of occupation to Israeli security, calling for an end to such activity. The pro-peace council, comprising hundreds of former senior security officers, wanted the statement to include a condemnation of refusing to serve. The refuseniks believed condemning the refusal would be a marginal part of the statement.

On Sunday night, the council worked out a brief draft statement headlined "The Council for Peace and Security opposes refusal to serve in the territories." The three-paragraph statement opens with an "outright condemnation" of the refusal to serve, continues with a lengthy paragraph detailing the need "to reduce the friction with the Palestinian population, and the phenomenon of repression and contempt involved in the rule of one people over another." It finishes with a third paragraph that reiterates opposition to refusal, "which endangers the ability of the army to operate and the principle of the rule of law."

When the council director-general, former police commander Shaul Givoli, read out the statement to the refuseniks' representative, Amit Mashiach, an argument broke out. Mashiach protested against the headline and the emphasis of the refusal issue. He demanded a reordering of the paragraphs, with the danger of the occupation leading off the statement, "because it's the most important issue." When the council refused to make the change, Mashiach called off the meeting between the two groups.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Rothschild, chairman of the council, said the refuseniks "thought the meeting was meant to denigrate the IDF and decided to dictate the formulations, but the hundreds of officers in the council won't condemn the IDF. We also have our reservations about what is going on in the territories, but that wasn't enough for them. Since yesterday, I have the feeling that radical political elements are behind them."

Mashiach said the council tried to take advantage of his group. "They [council members] wanted to use us to embrace the consensus. We expected a statement of principles by senior officers about the damage done to Israeli security by the occupation, and instead they laid a trap for us. But in informal discussions with members of the council we were encouraged by them. We still share the same view of the territories, and despite this attempt ending on a sour note, I'm sure there will be meetings in the future."

Meanwhile, some 30 professors from the Hebrew University have promised that student refuseniks who are jailed will receive the same support as those absent during the school year, including assistance in tutoring and the rescheduling of exams, according to economics professor Motti Peri.

As of last night, 363 reserve officers and soldiers had signed the petition against serving in the territories.