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JUDICIAL REFORM STANDOFF

After Netanyahu halts judicial reform, Israeli pilots who protested return to duty

A leader of the protest clarified that the reservists will again refuse to serve if they aren’t satisfied with the negotiations.

Israeli Air Force fighter jets. Credit: Israeli Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office.
Israeli Air Force fighter jets. Credit: Israeli Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office.

Reserve pilots in the Israel Defense Forces who refused to report to duty in protest of the government’s proposed judicial reform announced that they will return to duty on Tuesday.

Their decision comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday evening that he was halting reform legislation until the Knesset’s summer session to give time for dialogue.

Netanyahu’s announcement “influenced us,” said a former senior officer in the Israeli Air Force and one of the leaders of the protest, reported the Israeli news site Walla, and “now that there is a stop, it’s clear that we are going back to the squadrons, going back to training.”

However, he also warned that the reservists are ready to renew their threat if they aren’t satisfied with the negotiations. “Trust in the political leaders hasn’t improved. Yesterday’s speech was a speech that did not encourage unification and reconciliation. [Netanyahu] simply announced a halt.”

In early March, 30 F-15 pilots from a single squadron said they would not report to training. Towards the end of the month, some 200 additional pilots joined the protest.

Netanyahu condemned refusals in his speech. “The State of Israel cannot exist without the IDF, and the IDF cannot exist with refusals to serve. Refusal on one side will lead to refusal on the other side. Refusal is the end of our country, and therefore I demand from the heads of the security branch and the heads of the army to firmly oppose the phenomenon of refusal.”

Former IDF officers have also denounced the ongoing threat. IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, CEO and founder of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF), told JNS that the refusal to serve “poses an existential danger. If there is one thing that unites us all, it’s the army.”

Avivi said “when people bring politics into their units, which is what’s happening now, it breaks apart the very foundation that enables our army to function because we will always have governments pushing policies that some people won’t agree with.”

He stressed that “you cannot have an army where people say that if the government doesn’t do what I want, I won’t serve. Today, it will be judicial reform. Tomorrow, it will be the removal of settlements.”

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