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IDF chief: Military cohesion ‘best chance’ to heal societal rifts

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi's overture comes amid boycotts of reserve duty over the judicial reform plan.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 18, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 18, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi on Tuesday hailed military cohesiveness as the “best chance” for healing societal rifts, amid a campaign to boycott military reserve duty over the government’s judicial reform plan.

Halevi visited the IDF’s induction center at the Tel Hashomer Base in Ramat Gan, where he met new recruits for combat units in the Armored Corps and the Golani infantry brigade and their families.

“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 to be together,” Halevi 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.

Halevi called on the recruits to prove that no matter what happens in Israeli society, the IDF will protect the state and serve as “an example and model of cohesion that is strong and knows how to face difficult challenges.”

Last month, the IDF chief warned of “dangerous cracks” in the military’s “competence and cohesion” amid threats by thousands of reservists to refuse service.

“Service in the IDF is a duty that is a great privilege, both regularly and in the reserves. If we do not have a strong and cohesive army, if the best do not serve in the IDF, we will no longer be able to exist as a country in the region,” he said.

“Therefore, none of those who serve has the right to say that he no longer serves, and we do not have the right not to show up or to refuse an order or a call-up. I call on all reservists, even in these complex days, to separate civil protest from defense service and report for duty. The calls for nonattendance hurt the IDF,” Halevi continued. 

Many coalition members have strongly denounced the refusal to serve, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the IDF brass 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.

Last month, 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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