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Netanyahu calls on IDF leadership to ‘vigorously fight’ refusal to serve

“When [judicial reform] passes it will be too late, we want to make an impact before the point of no return,” says Maj. A.

An Israel Defense Forces reservist from the Brothers in Arms protest group attends a demonstration against judicial reform in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, March 16, 2023. Photo by Flash90.
An Israel Defense Forces reservist from the Brothers in Arms protest group attends a demonstration against judicial reform in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, March 16, 2023. Photo by Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called on the IDF’s top brass to counter the phenomenon of soldiers refusing to serve over his government’s judicial reform program.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “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 for refusal to serve in the public discourse. A state that values life cannot tolerate such phenomena and we will not tolerate them.”

Hundreds of reservists in various elite units announced on Sunday that they would not be reporting for duty.

“We’ll stop volunteering for reserve duty from today, and we will be happy to return to volunteer when democracy is safe,” Major A. of the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Special Operations Unit told Kan Reshet Bet radio on Sunday.

“When [judicial reform] passes it will be too late, we want to make an impact before the point of no return,” he added.

Separately, 180 active reserve aircrew members, more than 50 flight controllers and about 40 drone operators told their commanders over the weekend that they, too, would not show up for training this week due to the judicial reform plan.

Others condemned bringing the army into the political dispute.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, who served in numerous senior IDF positions, told Kan Reshet Bet on Sunday:

“It is impossible for service to be conditional. In a family, you don’t bring in the police when you want someone to do something controversial. The dedication to service is above the law. In my eyes and in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of other people, uprooting a settlement is many times worse than modifying the system of government—and we obeyed,” he said, referring to the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

On March 8, high-ranking officers including former IDF chiefs of staff from both sides of the political aisle released an open letter against the phenomenon of refusing to serve. It read in part: “We cannot allow politics to tear apart the IDF. We fought for our country for many decades and commanded regular and reserve units. Our service was never conditioned on political platforms.”

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