Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar said on Sunday in a closed-door meeting with senior staff that reservists who don’t show up for duty in protest against the government’s judicial reform will be dismissed, Israeli media reported.
The policy shift comes a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a pause of the proposed legislation to allow time for negotiations on a compromise package.
In the weeks leading up to Netanyahu’s announcement, the phenomenon of reservists threatening not to report for duty over the political dispute has caused concern in the country’s defense and security establishment. In late March, some 200 fighter pilots and over 100 air force reserve officers said that they were suspending their active reserve duty. In early March, 30 F-15 pilots from a single squadron said they would not report to training.
After Netanyahu put the brakes on the proposed legislation, the reserve pilots said that they would again report for duty, but a protest leader clarified that the reservists will again refuse to serve if they aren’t satisfied with the negotiations’ outcome.
“We need to clean politics from the army and the air force,” said Bar, according to Channel 12.
“We are between waves. In the next wave there will be a policy change: Those who are not interested in volunteering or serving in the reserves simply will not be here—and for me there is a difference between training and operational activity,” he continued.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told Channel 12 in response to Bar’s reported remarks: “We will not address what is said in closed forums. In recent weeks, all IDF commanders have held talks with their regular and reserve subordinates with the aim of strengthening the cohesion of the IDF and maintaining its competence.”
Netanyahu in early March described soldiers’ refusal to report for duty as an existential threat.
“Refusal to serve threatens the foundation of our existence, and it must have no place in our ranks,” said Netanyahu. “Israeli society has always condemned those refusing to serve. This will not be allowed to gain a foothold,” he added.
Also early last month, some 6,000 IDF reservists signed a petition stating that they will continue to serve irrespective of the judicial reform’s progress.
“We, current reservists representing all parts of the nation, in all ranks and roles, and from the entire political spectrum, continue and will continue to serve as reserve soldiers in the IDF, despite the current fighting in civil society, out of a sense of mission and recognition of the importance of the army in defending the homeland,” the petition states.