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Defense officials hold emergency meeting to discuss growing threat of IDF reservists' refusal to volunteer for duty

IDF warns Gallant, Netanyahu says ‘refusal endangers security of Israeli citizens’

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (meets with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Jan. 16, 2023. (Photo: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

With the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee advancing the Reasonableness Standard Bill, almost 4,000 reservists have signed letters threatening refusal to volunteer for duty if the bill is passed. 

The reservists include pilots and navigators, air traffic controllers, command staff, doctors and special operations commanders. 

The Ynet news outlet shared a letter from one such reserve group that read, “We all hope that the destructive legislation, as it is today, will stop. In hopes that we will meet in the next reserve [duty], after the sword has been removed from the neck of democracy.” 

While calls from reserve groups began earlier in the year, the coalition’s decision to proceed with the Reasonableness Standard Bill has led to an increase in the number of protest statements from reservists. 

On Sunday, Itay Ben Horin, an advisor to several protest groups, said “on Wednesday there will be an event during which representatives of reserve soldiers will announce that they will no longer volunteer for the IDF.” 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held an emergency meeting with Israel Defense Forces Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and other top commanders on Sunday to discuss the consequences of reservist refusals and how it would impact the Israel Defense Forces.

Notes from the meeting were leaked to Hebrew news sites, claiming that Gallant and Halevi agreed to raise the issue of IDF reservists' refusals to serve with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During his weekly cabinet meeting on Monday morning, the prime minister firmly stated that refusal to serve is “against democracy and against the law.” 

Netanyahu spoke about the difference between a democracy and a military regime. 

“In a democracy, the army is subordinate to the elected government and not the other way around. Whereas in a military regime, the government is subordinate to the army and more precisely to a group within the army. This is the fundamental difference between a democracy and a military regime,” he said. 

Netanyahu also warned that refusal to serve would endanger Israeli citizens, thus going against the IDF’s very existence.

“The incitement to refusal and the refusal itself are against democracy and against the law. This is true for any democracy, but in our democracy, incitement and refusal directly endanger the security of all Israeli citizens. They harm the deterrence against our enemies who can easily be tempted into acts of aggression against us, and they undermine the discipline within the army, which is the basis of the army's existence in the first place,” the prime minister told his cabinet. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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