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Over 10,000 IDF reservists announce they'll stop volunteering if Reasonableness Standard Bill passes

IDF Chief Herzi Halevi pleads with military reservists to not abandon their brothers in combat

Members of the "Brothers in Arms" reservist group and other Israeli reserve soldiers hold a Press conference in Herzliya, July 22, 2023. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

A group of reservists with the Brothers-in-Arms protest group published a statement on Saturday evening warning that more than 10,000 military reservists stop volunteer duty if the Reasonableness Standard Bill passes.

“This is one of the most difficult evenings in the history of the country, but also the most important. We have about 10,000 fighters behind us who are saying tonight to the Israeli government - it stops here,” said Eyal Naveh, one of the protest group leaders.

“We tried everything not to reach this moment, you left us no choice. We pledged to serve the kingdom, not the king,” Naveh continued. “We are determined, we are fighters, we love this country and we will not give up on it," he continued.

"If you want us by your side, just as we served under governments of the right and left, on secret missions, fighting shoulder to shoulder for the security of the state and keeping Israel democratic, we call on you to stop the legislation.”

Representatives from some 40 reserve units were present when the announcement was made.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Israel Defense Forces Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi on Sunday morning to discuss IDF readiness in light of the reservist refusals. That meeting was postponed because of Netanyahu’s hospitalization on Saturday night, where he underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker.

On Friday, a group of over 1,100 reserve Israel Air Force personnel submitted a letter to IAF Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announcing their refusal to serve in the present situation.

“It is the duty of all of us to prevent the destruction of the Third Temple,” the letter stated.

This week, Jews will observe Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), a commemorative day to remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Israel's N12 news reported that Gallant is working to postpone the voting on the bill, or to try reach a compromise with members of the opposition.

“The situation is very worrying, the legislation should be rejected," N12 reported Gallant as saying. In a statement released by his office, Gallant said he was “working in all ways to bring about a broad consensus and prevent harm to security.”

On Saturday, a group of roughly 100 senior defense officials sent their signed letter to Netanyahu, affirming their support for the reservists who have refused to serve.

“We, the generals in the reserves, the extras, the heads of divisions in the Mossad and the retired Shin Bet, stand with them and fully back the fighters who decided to take action and suspend their volunteering for reserve service. At this difficult time, this is an act of national responsibility to defend Israeli democracy,” the letter stated.

The former defense leaders called on Netanyahu to act directly.

“We hold you fully responsible for harming the IDF and Israel's security and expect you to take responsibility, to stop the legislation,” the top leaders wrote. “We expect you to lead a process of dialogue and changes in broad consensus among the people and in the Knesset. We veterans of Israel's wars feel like 'on the eve of the Yom Kippur War' and raise a bright red stop sign in front of you and your government.”

Some former IDF leaders said calls to “keep the IDF out of politics” are misguided.

“There are those who say, ‘Keep the army out of it,’ but there's no such thing. In a liberal democratic state, a soldier is not just a soldier," stated Prof. Avi Sagi, one of the drafters of the Spirit of the IDF in 2000, and a current lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University.

“In a liberal democratic state, and in the State of Israel, the soldier brings with them to the army the full set of their moral, conscientious, and civic values," Sagi continued. "There is no such thing in a liberal democratic country where the government will replace a person's conscience.”

On Sunday morning, Halevi sent a letter to IDF soldiers calling on them to serve.

“If we are not a strong and cohesive army, if the best do not serve in the IDF, we will no longer be able to exist as a state in the region,” he wrote.

Halevi said the IDF had not changed in the last 75 years, adding that the military has the same goal as it did from the beginning: Defending Israel.

“This destiny has not changed even today. The IDF's strength lies in human superiority, high readiness for war, and internal and external cohesion.”

“None of those who serve has the right to say that he is no longer serving, and we have no right not to report or refuse an order or call,” Halevi stated in his plea. “I call on all reservists, even in these complex times, to separate civilian protest from security service and to report to Israel. The calls for non-appearance hurt the IDF.”

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

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