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Yaalon Says Soldiers Must Exercise "Personal Judgment"

The IDF Chief of Staff thought he was merely laying out general ethical principles for soldiers to follow – but then a member of the audience challenged him to apply them to the disengagement.
First Publish: 12/14/2004, 3:08 PM / Last Update: 12/14/2004, 11:46 AM

Speaking at the Fifth Annual Herzliya Conference last night, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon expressed his personal credo on decisions IDF soldiers must make on ethical issues that arise during the course of their service.

Yaalon said that there are three aspects a soldier must take into account when he encounters a problematic situation. The first one, he said, is "between the soldier and himself" – one's own personal judgment. "Every one of us knows what type of things we would never do," Yaalon said.

The other two considerations are the national and the international aspects. From a national point of view, Yaalon said, the army and its soldiers must take into account the ramifications of various actions upon Israeli society at large. This includes the basic obligation not to deepen the social fissures, as well as the need for home-front support for the army's activities.

The army as a whole and the individual soldiers must also keep in mind the attitude of the international community, the Chief of Staff declared, as well as the world's reactions to various Israeli actions.

Audience member Dr. Ron Breiman, Chairman of the "Professors for a Strong Israel" forum, was particularly struck by Yaalon's remarks about "personal judgment" and "deepening societal fissures." At the end of Yaalon's speech, Breiman posed the following questions:
"You said that every individual knows there are some things he would never do. How does this jibe with the disengagement plan [which the army plans to force soldiers to implement]? How does this jibe with the personal oath every soldier takes to fulfill all orders?"

Breiman also asked Yaalon if, in the context of the "personal judgment" he said every soldier should exercise, "would you yourself consider resigning rather than giving the dreadful order to expel Jews from their homes in their Land?"

Breiman later reported that Yaalon responded that in a democratic state, "the army is subservient to the political echelons, and it must execute every order it receives."

Breiman told Arutz-7's Shimon Cohen, "Yaalon clearly contradicted himself, saying one thing in his speech and another thing in his response to me. Would he order the army to expel 8,000 Arabs from 22 villages if the government decided to do so, or would he choose to resign instead?"