Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out on Monday against a growing protest by Israel Defense Forces reservists, saying “there is no room for refusals.”
Netanyahu delivered his remarks at a press conference held at an IDF Border Police base, standing in front of soldiers, alongside National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana.
“On the eve of Purim, we will remember that for thousands of years, the Jewish people were like a leaf blowing in the wind, like sheep led to the slaughter. The biggest change in the history of our people took place when we regained the ability to defend ourselves, on our own,” Netanyahu said. “Jews, Druze, Muslims, Christians and Circassians defend our country together.”
“When we are on the battlefield, looking right or left, we don’t do that to check the political viewpoints of our brothers and sisters. We look right and left, knowing that we charge forward together – tap to tap against our enemies – to ensure our security and future. This is the first and most important foundation of our existence in our land. It rests upon the deep understanding that, whatever the differences between us, we are always united against those who seek to harm us,” he continued.
Netanyahu noted that this unity has been the case throughout every war Israel has participated in, regardless of inner struggles and disagreements.
His comments came after hundreds of IDF reservists, including dozens of elite pilots, informed their commanders they were refusing their usual service in protest of the government’s judicial reforms. Other reservists have threatened not to report for duty at all.
“The refusals threaten the foundation of our existence,” Netanyahu said. “We have never given refusals a foothold – not in the regular army, not in the reserve forces and not in the security forces – under any circumstances.”
“There is room for protest and for opposing views in society, but there is no room for refusals,” Netanyahu added.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the current leader of the National Unity party, wrote a response to the prime minister on social media.
“The refusal is first and foremost yours, Netanyahu. You are the one who refuses to stop the judicial revolution and start a dialogue. You refuse to hear the calls of Israeli patriots and are dragging an entire country into chaos,” Gantz said.
Doubling down on Netanyahu’s message, Israel’s Communication Minister Shlomo Karhi angered many in Israel with his Purim holiday message:
“And Mordechai would not kneel nor bow down,” Karhi posted, quoting from the Book of Esther. “To those refusing to serve, we say to them what Mordechai told Esther: ‘Profit and salvation will arise for the Jews from another place, and your father’s house will be destroyed.’”
“The people of Israel will manage without you, and you can go to hell,” Karhi wrote. “The [judicial] reform movement will move forward. It was for this movement that we came to power.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.