newsIsrael at War

Labor leader under fire after praising IDF refusals during wartime

Yair Golan lobbied for "broader use" of reserve service refusals to topple the Netanyahu government.

Yair Golan speaks after the results were announced in the Labor Party leadership primary elections in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Yair Golan speaks after the results were announced in the Labor Party leadership primary elections in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Right-wing Israeli politicians sharply criticized recently elected Labor Party chief Yair Golan for apparently calling for reservists to refuse service in the Israel Defense Forces during a time of war to bring down the government.

The Israel Police said it would open an investigation into Golan after his comments came to light. Golan, a former major general and IDF deputy chief of staff, said he wasn’t afraid of the investigation, accusing the police of having become a political tool of Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister.

In a video clip that Channel 14 aired on Wednesday, Golan is seen speaking during a May 7 campaign stop for the Labor leadership, where he refers to the 37 Air Force reservists from the 69th Squadron, who refused in March of last year to report to duty in protest of the government’s judicial reform plans.

Their refusal started a chain reaction in which hundreds of other reservists also threatened not to show up for duty.

“The tiniest threat of civil disobedience put [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu under intense pressure,” Golan said. “Why don’t we make much broader use of this?”

When asked by an off-screen listener what he meant by civil disobedience, Golan replied, “Civil disobedience, for example, is we don’t do reserve duty. Until the government is replaced, we don’t do reserve duty.”

When he received pushback from the audience, he appeared to back off, saying, “I’m not saying now, [that] this is the best step.”

The Likud Party responded in a statement on Wednesday: “We were shocked to hear the inciting and irresponsible words of the new head of the Labor Party Yair Golan.

“These are slanderous words to encourage refusals during wartime, which hurt the chances of returning the hostages, endanger the lives of fighters in the field and harm the security of the state,” the party said.

On Wednesday, National Security Minister Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit Party sent a request to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, urging her to open a criminal investigation against the Labor leader.

Gideon Sa’ar of the New Hope Party, although a member of the opposition, also condemned Golan’s remarks.

“An opposition struggle should be conducted with legitimate tools and within the framework of the law. Mr. Golan must retract his words publicly and clearly,” Sa’ar tweeted.

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