Commanders of the haredi battalion Netzah Yehuda, which – unlike other battalions that move between West Bank posts – is deployed across one area, asked the Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier-General Hagai Mordechai to take part in operational missions in more critical locations than their current station, in the outskirts of Jenin.
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After Netzach Yehuda was named the best battalion in its sector, its officers wished to challenge their troops by examining their abilities in more volatile sectors, and therefore approached Mordechai with the request.
In response, he said that he had doubts regarding the haredi troops' ability to handle some of the operational aspects that compose West Bank military action, such as settlements' eviction.
Brig.-Gen. Mordechai reportedly told the commanders: "In order to send you to more critical areas I need to know that you will follow any order you'll be given. Can you do that or will I face refusals and defiance?"
(L) Brig.-Gen. Hagai Mordechai (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
According to Netzah Yehuda officers, Mordechai asked an officer who lives in a West Bank settlement: "If tomorrow I send you to Tapuach to put up a block to prevent reinforcement in Migron, will you be able to do it?" The soldier did not answer whether he would refuse the order and explained it was not an easy decision when it came to evacuating his fellow settlers.
Mordechai's comment stands out against the backdrop of the IDF's efforts to form battalions similar to Netzah Yehuda, which is made up, in part, of soldiers who live in West Bank settlements.
According to IDF sources, part of the reason that the haredi battalion is stationed in one post rather than alternating between sectors stems from the complex logistics accompanying haredi bases, among which maintaining strict kosher rules and constructing a library containing books of prayer.
Furthermore, the IDF must make sure to remove any women soldiers serving in posts to which the haredi battalion arrives, seeing as they cannot serve with women.
The IDF Spokesperson Unit said that "We have no intention of addressing anything that was said behind closed doors.
"The Netzah Yehuda battalion has been executing its orders, as does any other battalion in the IDF. The missions that the battalion is given are determined according to operational needs and the challenges with which the IDF is dealing. Any attempt to incorporate a specific incident into overall decision making is groundless."
A few weeks ago, a soldier was dismissed from the battalion after refusing to stay in a post that was constructed to stop rightwing activists from infiltrating into the Homesh settlement that was evacuated in 2007. According to the IDF, the soldier was tried and dismissed from combat service.
Sources in Yesha Council were enraged to learn of the case, calling Mordechai's response "military blackmail."
Benny Gal, who produced a film about the issue of disobedience within religious ranks said that "The IDF essentially makes its commanders choose between acting against Jews and getting stuck in non-operational sectors.
"This is another part in a change prevalent in the army, which is meant to turn it into a policing force against Jews and that's very serious."
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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