The Peace Now movement has urged Israeli authorities on Sunday to pardon the eight Golani Brigade soldiers who were sentenced
to 10-30 days in military jail for protesting the evacuation of settlements following a graduation ceremony.
The soldiers were photographed wearing T-shirts printed with the slogan "Golani fights enemies, it doesn't expel Jews."
Brigade Commander Colonel Ofek Buchris on Sunday sentenced four 13th Battalion soldiers to 13-18 days in detention. The soldiers were told that they can motion the Head of Northern Command for a pardon, and that each case will be considered separately. Four other soldiers were tried in the case on Friday.
Golani soldiers wearing offending tees (Photo: Samaria Settlements Council)
The soldiers' parents turned to Defense Minister Ehud Barak
and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, claiming that their children were victims of a public relations ploy. They said that the shirts, which had the Golani logo printed on the front, were given to the soldiers by anonymous donors.
"In retrospect, it turns out that their goal was to use (the soldiers) as posters," the parents wrote. "The backs of the shirts were printed with sayings that have no connection to their world views, their ways of life or their upbringing."
Following the parents' plea, Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, a left-wing non-governmental organization advocating for the two-state solution, has urged Barak to free the soldiers as well.
"As a reserve soldier and a citizen I was shocked and ashamed by the release of the pictures, and the turning of the IDF and its soldiers into an active player in the political arena," Oppenheimer said.
"The IDF acted properly when it immediately sentenced the soldiers to detention, but as time passed it turned out that most of the soldiers that took part in the protest were misled by a few citizens who belong to the Shomron Settlers' Committee."
Oppenheimer accused settler leaders of abusing an army ceremony to promote a political agenda, and called on the defense establishment to handle the issue to the full extent of the law.
"The Defense Ministry and the IDF must cut all ties with the Shomron Settlers' Committee, investigate the incident and examine the possibility of pursuing criminal proceedings against the citizens who took part in the scheme," he said.
"Meanwhile, the soldiers who expressed regret and claimed they were deceived by the settlers should be pardoned. Needless to say, the soldier who aided the fraud and organized the plot within the unit should be permanently dismissed from the IDF."
In an unexpected move, the Shomron Settlers' Committee chose to stand by Oppenheimer's request.
"We support Oppenheimer's demand for the IDF to pardon the Golani combat troops," the committee said in a statement. "Indeed, there is no doubt that the soldiers who expressed moral objection to the expulsion of Jews from their homes deserve praise, not detention."
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report