Two recruits from the Shimshon Regiment were sentenced to 20 days in military prison and were expelled from their brigade for holding up signs reading "Shimshon Regiment won't evacuate Homesh" during a swearing in ceremony conducted at the Western Wall last week.
The two were tried for conduct unbecoming in a disciplinary hearing by Kfir Brigade Commander Colonel Oren Abman. Once they serve their sentence their placement will be reevaluated, but they are unlikely to be placed with a combat unit.
The recruits and their families held up the signs following the regiment's participation in the recent evacuation of returning settlers to the West Bank settlement of Homesh, which was evacuated during the 2005 Gaza pullout.
"Waving the sign while swearing in was a miserable and inappropriate act. It is a shame that extremist elements took advantage of the ceremony to drag the soldiers into a political debate," one military source said.
Soldiers at the swearing in ceremony (Photo: Miri Tzachi, courtesy of Homesh First)
Central Command Chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi told Ynet that the IDF cannot be implicated or divided by political discourse.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi reiterated the sentiment, urging against using soldiers to express exterior interests.
The incident, however did receive some praise from extreme-right activists. Members of the rightist movement SOS Israel announced that they would award the soldiers with a cash prize amounting to thousands of shekels.
"They gave a lesson in democracy and acted in an exemplary fashion as part of their legitimate protest," said Rabbi Sholom Dov Wolpo who heads the organization.
"The soldiers who acted this way are trying to remove the IDF from controversies which divide the army and cause a rift among the people. The IDF's role is to unite the people and not divide them," he added.