In an act of civil disobedience reminiscent of that which sparked the civil rights and anti-war mass movements in the United States, more than two dozen Israeli youth have refused to obey Israeli military orders to serve on the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
Their resistance is a dramatic escalation of the growing protest within Israel which opposes the continuing Israeli army occupation of Palestinian land.
The fact that such a drastic act of insubordination has taken place, and that it has become a household topic in Israel, indicates how deep and widespread the general public's dissatisfaction with the occupation and settlement policies has become.
More than anything else, the young people's selective conscientious objection has served to sharpen the debate over Israel's future, challenging the moral authority the Israeli government has used to justify its military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian territories for more than 13 years.
Their resistance comes at a time of great difficulty for Israel. As 1980 ended, Israel's annual inflation rate had reached a chronic level of more than 150 per cent. Prime Minister Begin's coalition government was barely surviving repeated no-confidence votes in the Knesset Parliament, indicative of the significant recent erosion of public support for Begin's policies of security through strong-armed confrontation and increased Israeli settlements in the Arab lands, policies which have perpetually inflamed the Palestinians and ravaged the war-economy of Israel.
Even Begin's former defense minister and 1977 campaign manager, Ezer Weizman, was compelled to say in late November that the Begin policies were a "disaster," making Israelis "fed up with peace."
What became perhaps the biggest threat to the hard-liners' approach to Israel's security began with the simple, bold act of 27 of Israel's native-born youth in July, 1979.