The former chief rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliyahu, has advised Israeli soldiers not to carry out orders to take part in the evacuation of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but at the same time not to refuse such orders outright.

Clarifying his position on the campaign to foil the disengagement plan, Eliyahu said a ‘soldier must tell his commander: ‘I am not refusing the order but I cannot carry out the order.” In this case, he said, not carrying out the orders would not be considered as a refusal, but inability to do so.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan calls for evacuation of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip as well as a handful from the West Bank. For many Israeli soldiers it poses a conflict between traditional Zionist beliefs and loyalty to the army.

Eliyahu stressed that soldiers and the evacuees must refrain from making use of violence against each other.

‘We do not want to disassemble the army that defends the lives of the residents and the citizens,’ he said. ‘We thus cannot declare a refusal to obey orders but must stand and say that we are not able.’

Regarding the police, Rabbi Eliyahu said they should not quit their jobs out of fear of the disengagement. ‘They must inform their commanders that they cannot drive out Jews and ask to be dismissed from training leading up to the expulsion,’ he said.

Eliyahu described the disengagement as ‘criminal’ and an offense against the Torah. Referring to the civil guards who will be responsible for evacuating the settlers, he said ‘It is decided that they have no permission to take part in this criminal act.’ 

The rabbi made his statements in a letter to the rabbis of the Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza. In his letter, he emphasized repeatedly that there would be no ‘uprooting and expulsion.’

‘We pray that this evil thought will be abolished,’ he wrote, ‘and we are certain that prayer will help and the government’s evil decision will be overthrown.’