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Netanyahu delays vacation, summons IDF chief for ‘urgent’ meeting

The heads of Israel's security services deny report they planned to bypass the government and go public with judicial reform concerns.

From left: Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visit the IAF control center, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
From left: Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visit the IAF control center, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday summoned Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi for an “urgent” meeting focusing on the military’s operational readiness.

The premier postponed a planned vacation to Moshav Ramot on the Golan Heights for the meeting, which took place at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.

According to Channel 12, the meeting was to deal with the state of the IDF in light of the campaign to boycott reserve duty as part of the ongoing protests against the government’s judicial reform effort. Netanyahu and Halevi were also expected to discuss the latest security developments in the region.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other senior military officials also joined the meeting, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. They presented the premier with an update on the “competence and cohesion” of the armed forces.

Netanyahu “completely rejected the phenomenon of conditional reserve service” and all of the participants “agreed that political disputes should be left outside of the IDF.”

Netanyahu “directed that the fitness and readiness of the IDF to meet any challenge—in both routine and emergencies—be maintained,” the statement continued.

“The prime minister expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the IDF to maintain its fitness, readiness and cohesion, and for those who are performing both regular and reserve duty,” the statement added. “Everyone participating in the meeting agreed that disagreements and politics must be left out of the IDF.”

Israel’s security services earlier on Sunday denied a report that they are considering issuing public statements about harm to their readiness caused by the reservist threats to not show up for duty.

Channel 12 reported on Sunday that Halevi, Mossad intelligence agency head David Barnea and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) leader Ronen Bar were mulling going public about the state of Israel’s security services in light of reservists refusing to show up for duty.

This would be in defiance of Netanyahu, who the report claimed has rejected attempts to brief the Cabinet regarding how the protests have impacted the security services.

“The report on coordination between the security services regarding an impairment of military readiness is incorrect and does not reflect the position of the director of the Mossad, which he expresses in security forums and to the political leadership, and not in the media,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement (the Mossad makes public statements via the PMO).

The IDF and Shin Bet also issued statements denying the report and saying that they coordinate all moves with the political echelon.

Last week, Halevi hailed military cohesiveness as the “best chance” for healing societal rifts caused by disagreements over the reform initiative.

“We teach that the IDF will be the people’s army in the State of Israel and want to recruit as many as possible, from as many sectors as possible, to bring them together,” he said.

“We know how to be different together. We know how to see one common goal and for all of us to work together for it,” he added.

Many coalition members have strongly denounced the refusal to serve, and Netanyahu has called on the IDF to counter the phenomenon.

“I expect the IDF chief of staff and the heads of the security services to vigorously fight against refusal to serve. There is no place in the public discourse for refusal to serve. A country that values life cannot tolerate such phenomena and we will not tolerate them,” the premier said in March.

In July, Netanyahu reiterated the call, saying, “It is impossible for there to be a group within the army that threatens the elected government [and demands], ‘If you don’t do as we wish, we will turn off the switch on security.’”

No democratic country can accept such a dictate, he said, adding that only in military regimes does the government obey the army and that “those waving the flag of democracy should be the first to come out against this.”

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