Israeli teen activists say no to army draft

Photo: Israeli teen activists say no to army draft / Israel-Arab Relations

A group of Israeli teenagers have told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they will refuse to serve in the military because of its role in the occupation of Palestinian land, Al Jazeera reported.

"The main reason for our refusal is our opposition to the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the army," about 50 youths wrote in a letter to Netanyahu, published on Saturday by an Israeli pacifist group.

The group referred to "human rights violations" in the West Bank, including "executions, settlement construction, administrative detention, torture, collective punishment and unfair distribution of water and electricity".

"Any military service perpetuates the current situation, and therefore we cannot take part in a system that carries out these deeds," read the letter posted on the Facebook page of Yesh Gvul.

Haaretz reported that Yesh Gvul, which advocates conscientious objection, said on Saturday evening in response to the letter's publication that "refusal is a personal decision by every person in a democratic society".

According to Haaretz, Yesh Gvul added: "We support anyone whose democratic and humanist values drove him to refuse to take part in occupation and repression of the Palestinian people."

Yesh Gvul (There is a limit) describes itself as a "peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature".

No construction freeze

Military service is compulsory in Israel, with men serving three years and women two.

Earlier this month, members of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel protested against a new law which would mean they too were subject to the draft.

It comes as Netanyahu said on Sunday he is opposed to freezing construction in settlements as a means to extend US-sponsored peace talks with Palestinians.

Such a freeze "would serve nothing," Netanyahu told public radio.

"We imposed one in the past and it brought no results," the premier said of the 10-month construction moratorium he issued during the last round of peace talks with Palestinians that ended in 2010.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been struggling to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree a framework for extending direct peace talks, launched in July, beyond an April 29 deadline.

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