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Netanyahu reportedly ignores request to meet with Gallant over reservists' refusals to serve

IDF has increasingly become a focus of political discourse and debate in judicial reform dispute

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visit at an army base near the West Bank city of Jenin, July 4, 2023. (Photo: Shir Torem/Flash90)

According to a Jerusalem Post report this morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ignored requests from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss the Israel Defense Forces’ readiness and cohesion amid calls for refusal to serve by hundreds of Israeli military reservists.

The report says that Gallant reached out to Netanyahu on Sunday, requesting a meeting to discuss “cohesion problems in the IDF.”

While the Post says that Netanyahu has yet to respond, on Wednesday, the Times of Israel ran a news brief claiming that Netanyahu did meet with Gallant and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi.

The Times cited a statement from the Ministry of Defense saying that Gallant and Halevi briefed Netanyahu on the “security situation and the competence of the IDF.”

The statement did not specify when the meeting took place or report the content.

Both current and former defense officials on both sides of the judicial reform debate have warned that refusal to serve would weaken the IDF's readiness and competence.

On Tuesday, Gallant posted a statement on social media criticizing the refusals to serve.

“Especially these days, we have to go back and remind ourselves that we don't have another country and we don't have another army,” Gallant said.

“We are allowed to disagree, but we must not harm the IDF in the name of one political opinion or another. We have no existence in this country without the Israel Defense Forces.”

On Wednesday evening, two cabinet ministers – National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar of the Likud party – shared a video by Daniel Edri depicting IDF soldiers in combat who radio for air support, only to be asked by the pilots, “Do you support or not support the [judicial] reforms?”

The video ends with the pilots refusing to provide the requested cover and perhaps even bombing the Israeli infantry troops instead of the enemy. The soldier who called in for air support, apparently under threat of being killed, says: “Friends, from right or from left, don’t bring politics into the IDF.”

The Brothers in Arms protest groups attacked the ministers, accusing them of “crossing the red line of disrespecting the memory of fallen IDF soldiers in a propaganda video for political purposes.”

After receiving severe criticism, Zohar later deleted the post, claiming his opponents took the video out of context.

“The video was taken out of context – it had one message,” Zohar wrote.

As of writing the national security minister still has the video on his Facebook page.

IDF Spokesperson Brig-Gen. Daniel Hagari also criticized the video claiming it was intended to create internal conflict.

“In the past 12 hours, a video has been circulating aimed at creating internal incitement within the IDF, which deserves all condemnation,” Hagari said.

“Cohesion in the IDF is a supreme value. We categorically reject all statements and opinions against regular and reserve aircrew commanders and fighters.”

The video’s creator, Daniel Erdi, responded to the criticism.

“The video is meant to unite,” Erdi said. “There are those who use it cynically about the army. But the whole purpose is to call on my brothers to not introduce politics into the army, as has been preserved to this day. That was the purpose of the video.”

“The bottom line is that the video is meant to unite and say that in the coming war," he continued "if we don't come to our senses, then the situation that you see in the video, where a soldier was killed because they talked about political things, these things will happen on the ground in the end. I see the political discourse in the army, and it has no place.”

Both Gallant and Halevi have repeatedly called to keep the IDF out of political discourse.

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

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