Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon reacted with disgust Saturday night to a letter of refusal signed by leftist reservists from an elite intelligence unit.
The letter, signed by 43 reserve officers and soldiers, called for insubordination after accusing the elite intelligence Unit 8200 of being an "inseparable part of the military control of the territories," referring to Judea and Samaria, and alleging the unit was being used to spy on "innocent" Palestinians.
"I have been familiar with Unit 8200 and is activities for decades, and certainly since I was appointed head of the Intelligence Corps and became aware of the enormous contribution of the men of this unit to the security of the citizens of Israel," Ya'alon said.
Praising he soldiers of the unit for performing "amazingly well" under difficult circumstances, he added that "Unit 8200 preserves the existence of the State of Israel."
"The attempt to harm the unit and its operations via a call for insubordination, based on allegations which do not represent the actions of the unit or the values of its personnel is a foolish and obscene attempt to support the international false delegitimization campaign against the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF."
"The soldiers of Unit 8200 are moral and ethical" he insisted, and called on people to support "them and their actions which are so important to the security of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens."
Ya'alon's comments follow a stinging criticism of the letter by Opposition Chair and Labor party head Yitzhak Herzog, who is himself an officer in Unit 8200.
"I oppose refusal to serve and am wholly disgusted by it,” Herzog remarked on Facebook. "This unit and its operations are vital not only for wartime but especially and mostly for peace."
In response to the letter, the IDF Spokesperson Unit said that sending the insubordination letter to the Israeli media before turning to commanders or relevant IDF sources with the complaints hints at a lack of seriousness to the claims. In particular, it noted, "regarding the claims about harming innocents, the process of approving targets in the IDF is long and strict, and also takes into account those not involved."
Several other members of the same unit signed a counter-letter on Friday "to express shock, disgust and total renouncement of the letter written by our fellow soldiers, who chose political refusal over our unit."
"This political refusal has no place in the army in general and in Unit 8200 in particular," it continued. "In the hour that reserve soldiers are called to serve their country, we put aside our preferences and political opinions and go to serve our country."
"We regret that our friends make cynical use of politics in their legal and moral duty to serve in the reserve unit, which in our eyes constitutes the highest honor, and seek [instead] to undermine the activities and achievements in the unit's defense of the country and its people."
The veterans also rejected the initial letter's outrageous claims that the IDF was using information on Palestinian Arabs to "stalk" them and "harass innocent people" instead of defending Israeli civilians.
"As those familiar with the unit for many years, we cannot accept the allegations of lack of ethical and moral principles of intelligence work in the unit," it said. "From our first days in the unit, we learned the importance of monitoring and collecting data in accordance with high professional standards and regulations."
"Both in regular and reserve services, we have witnessed many cases where the operation of the unit's intelligence capabilities resulted in the preservation of human life on both sides," it continued. "Even when ethical dilemmas arise on the job, and during the war, witnesses [of crimes] were and still dealt with in a mature and responsible manner, in line with the principles of international law and the code of ethics and morals of the army."