Some pro-settler rabbis have called on soldiers to refuse to participate in settlement evacuations, due to begin in July under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's so-called "disengagement" plan from conflict with the Palestinians.
   
A military official, who declined to be named, dismissed suggestions on Tuesday that soldiers with right-wing views might refuse orders to uproot Jewish settlements from occupied land Palestinians want for a state, but said Israel was taking no chances.

"It will be one of the most sensitive challenges we have to carry out, in terms of not having a consensus in Israeli society," said the official.

"Of course I am sure that we are going to do it. We know that if we don't succeed in carrying out this mission, it will really destroy our society and our state," he said.

Public opinion

Opinion polls show a majority of Israelis back Sharon's view that the Gaza settlements have become security and economic liabilities.

Under a five-week evacuation scheme unveiled on Tuesday, Israel will send 10,000 unarmed soldiers to remove residents from all 21 settlements in Gaza and four out of the 120 in the West Bank.

"It will be one of the most sensitive challenges we have to carry out, in terms of not having a consensus in Israeli society"

Israeli Army official

Another four rings of troops round each enclave will allow the army to respond if settlers use violence, as well as retaliate if Palestinian fighters mount attacks.

Conscripts who come from settlements due for removal will be reassigned.

"We will not order a soldier to evacuate his family or his own settlement," said the official.
 
Commanders would be expected to spot troops showing any signs of insubordination and persuade them to rethink, he said, adding that some 4000 lieutenants and captains had been issued with instructions on how to deal with such situations.

"If someone tells us, 'I am going to disobey', we will not put him directly in prison. We have to give him the opportunity to confront this feeling," said the official. "We will not negotiate with him, but we will speak with him".