TEL AVIV (Mar. 9)
High-ranking reserve officers of the Israel Defense Force seem to be as divided as the government over Israeli policies in the administered territories and how to deal with Arab unrest, now entering its fourth month.
A group of 96 reservists, holding ranks from majors to brigadier generals, have sent a letter to Premier Yitzhak Shamir urging him to choose peace over holding on to the territories.
But 50 other reservists of similar rank met this week to demand a harder line against Palestinian rioters and leftist Israelis who support their cause. They also urged politicians and the news media to “stop using the army as a political tool and allow soldiers and their commanders to do their jobs as they see fit.”
The letter to Shamir was almost identical to one sent 10 years ago to Premier Menachem Begin by reserve officers who formed the nucleus of the Peace Now movement. The earlier letter stated that “ruling 1 million Arabs is liable to harm the Jewish democratic nature of the state.” The current letter differs only by referring to “1.5 million Arabs.”
Some 800 other officers, mainly of lower ranks, signed it. Most belong to elite units of the IDF and some hold various IDF decorations and commendations. Three members of one family signed — Col. Yaakov Neria; his wife, Lt. Col. Zippora Neria; and their son, Col. Yuval Neria.
The meeting of the hard-line officers, who expressed sharply different views, was organized by Michael Ratzon, leader of the Herut party’s “young guard.”
Ratzon called on the IDF to take a tougher stand against Arab rioters to prevent “an indefinite continuation of the disturbances, which would lead to much greater loss of life among the Arabs.”
Brig. Gen. Zvi Gov-Ari of the air force reserve said “the present situation, in which we crucify soldiers for actions arising from situations for which they are not responsible, is an intolerable one.”
Brig. Gen. Zion Masuri urged the arrest of “traitors who distribute leaflets to soldiers at hitchhiking stations.” He decried “the recent atmosphere in which patriots are considered idiots.”
But the right-wing officers rejected a proposal by Ratzon to bar the news media from entering the territories.