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Netanyahu calls for calm after Likud member posts ‘you will go to hell’ to those refusing military reserve duty

Both sides of the coalition and opposition are united in keeping IDF reserve duty outside of the political discourse

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi during a discussion and a vote in the Knesset assembly hall in Jerusalem, Mar. 1, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than slamming IDF reservists who do not report for duty, called on his own Likud party members on Wednesday to stop the divisive rhetoric.

“Refusals are a dangerous phenomenon that needs to be firmly opposed, but when we do, even in the heat of the moment, it must be done within the limits of the discourse,” he told the Knesset members.

“Our goal is to try to calm tensions and not inflame them, and this applies to everyone without exception,” he added.

Netanyahu’s remarks were in response to an incendiary social media post written by Likud Knesset Member Shlomo Karhi (in Hebrew, translated below in English):

“And Mordecai shall not kneel nor bow” – there are times when one must stand firm against the hegemony and the rulers in their own eyes. To the impudent refusers, here is what Mordecai said to Esther: ‘Relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.’ The people of Israel will manage without you and you will go to hell. The reforms will proceed. We have been called to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

After Karhi’s inflammatory and offensive remarks, a group of Israel Defense Forces reservists began a demonstration outside of his home, saying he had gone too far with the “go to hell” reference.

Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that one IDF reservist said: “We have been in all corners of the globe for the sake of the country – hell is one destination too far. We aren’t going anywhere. We will fight for democracy.”

Karhi tried to downplay his remarks by telling the demonstrators that his social media post was not directed at IDF reservists who oppose the administration’s proposed judicial reforms, but rather only at those who are threatening not to show up for military reserve duty.

The controversial judicial reforms, which are causing division across the Jewish state, have led to a concerning trend of IDF army and air force reservists, including fighter pilots, threatening to not show up for reserve duty.  

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – a member of Netanyahu's Likud party – called on Israeli citizens to stop using IDF reserve duty as a weapon in demonstrations against the government’s proposed judicial reforms. 

“The word refusal [to serve] should remain out of the conversation. This refusal undermines the most basic foundation of the state’s existence and our security, and we cannot allow that,” Gallant said. “The threats of refusal are playing with fire. We need to leave the IDF above all debate.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Herzi Halevi also called out any refusal to serve in the IDF as a “red line.”

In a rare show of unity among coalition and opposition leaders, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot and Avigdor Liberman urged IDF reservists not to refuse army duty, which would cause a security risk for the Jewish nation.

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

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