update desk

IAF colonel sacked for telling pilots not to report to duty

IDF chief Herzi Halevi approved the decision after the air force officer encouraged others to skip training to protest judicial reforms.

Two Israeli Air Force F-15 Ra’ams practice air maneuvers. Credit: TSGT Kevin J. Gruenwald, USAF/Wikipedia
Two Israeli Air Force F-15 Ra’ams practice air maneuvers. Credit: TSGT Kevin J. Gruenwald, USAF/Wikipedia

A commander in an elite Israel Air Forces reserves unit whose members threatened to skip combat training over the government’s judicial reforms plan has been relieved of his duties.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi approved the decision to dismiss Col. Gilad Peled, citing a “crisis of trust.”

The move came after it was revealed that the officer was not only participating in the anti-reform protests but was actively encouraging other reserve pilots not to report for duty. The IAF’s 69th Fighter Squadron of which he is a member made headlines Sunday when 37 out of the unit’s 40 fighter pilots announced that they would be boycotting combat training.

These elite reserve pilots fly F-15I Ra’am (“Thunder” in Hebrew) fighter jets on important missions for the Jewish state out of Hatzerim Air Base, near Be’er Sheva.

The 37 pilots were to hold their protest on Wednesday. However on Tuesday, following intensive efforts behind the scenes, they announced that they would be showing up for work on Wednesday, for discussions.

“We are responding to the call of our commanders and will report to the unit tomorrow to talk to the soldiers,” the pilots said, “We have full confidence in the commanders and will continue to serve the Jewish and democratic State of Israel as long as necessary.”

Meetings were set up for the pilots with Halevi, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. The pilots asked that Gallant urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin to stop pushing forward the legal overhaul bills and begin negotiations with the opposition over a compromise.

Netanyahu on Monday night described as an existential threat the refusal by reserve soldiers to show up for duty in protest of the government’s judicial reform program.

“Refusal to serve threatens the foundation of our existence, and it must have no place in our ranks,” the prime minister said after attending a Purim megillah reading at a Border Police base in the Jewish community of Beit Horon. “Israeli society has always condemned those refusing to serve. This will not be allowed to gain a foothold,” he added.

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