Ha'aretz - Internet Edition

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Reservists refusing service in territories hold first meeting

By Amos Harel & Yam Yehoshua, Ha'aretz correspondents

Some 130 signatories of a petition by IDF reservists refusing to serve in the territories held their first meeting Tuesday night. So far, 230 reserve officers and soldiers have added their names to the petition.

The meeting, which was closed to the media, aimed to find ways to continue the campaign to raise public awareness of the petition. The participants decided to form work groups that would raise funds for their activities, deal with the media and obtain public support for the group's cause.

Reporters were not allowed to enter the meeting, and the identity of the participants was examined by comparing their identity cards with a list prepared beforehand.

Amit Mashiah, the group's spokesman, said that the petition signatories are preparing for a prolonged fight. "We will continue to encourage the social discourse on the intolerable price we pay for staying in the territories, and on the need to stay there," Mashiah said.

The IDF last week appealed to all those who had signed the petition to meet with their commanding officers over the coming month. The first meeting of this nature will take place next week. Officers who then refuse to withdraw their signatures from the petition will be relieved of their command duties in their units.

No disciplinary measures have yet been taken against the soldiers who have signed the petition. It appears that the IDF is planning specific measures against them if and when they refuse to respond to their call-up notices. The first test case will happen within the next month, as a number of the signatories have received notice to serve in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The organizers of the petition recommended that the soldiers try to resolve the situation with their immediate commanders, and only if the commanders refuse to exempt them from service in the territories, should the reservists declare their refusal at the risk of military prison.