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Reservists' refusal to serve in military is 'dangerous' and 'a reward for our enemy,' says defense minister

Gallant does not talk about controversial legislation, says ‘keep politics out of IDF’

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during an event marking 50 years since the Yom Kippur War, July 11, 2023. (Photo: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

At an event honoring the 146th Reserve Armored Division, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke out against recent refusals to serve by some military reservists. 

“Calls that are being heard these days encouraging refusal and halting the volunteering of reservists threaten the unity of the ranks, are dangerous, and are a reward for our enemy,” said Gallant during a speech at the event, marking 50 years since the Yom Kippur War in 1973,

Gallant’s remarks were made against the backdrop of growing calls to stop volunteer service in the reserves due to the resumption of the judicial reform legislation. 

“I call on public figures on the right and left, leave politics out of the military,” Gallant said. “Make no mistake – today it is one government, tomorrow there may be another. The only thing that keeps us united is the army. Refusal harms the IDF and the defense establishment, refusal harms Israel's security. The IDF is the protective tool that gives life to the State of Israel. We have no other army to lean on, we have to keep it united and keep it out of any dispute.” 

“The IDF's strength rested then and today rests on the unity of its ranks, on those fighters – from the tank commander to the division commander – who understood the magnitude of the hour and stood ready together for every mission, united against the goal. Even today, the key to success in our missions lies in uniting our ranks against our enemies,” Gallant said.

“We must all condemn refusal or calls for refusal, and remember well – we all have one destiny, we are brotherly people," he told the soldiers. "The IDF is the army of all of us – Israel's defense army. We have no other army to lean on. We have to take care to keep it cohesive and leave it out of any controversy.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, more than 400 reserve aircrew members met in the Bnei Brak Hall to discuss protest measures, as the coalition pushes forward with the controversial Reasonableness Standard Bill. Some attendees described the gathering as “honest, deep, and tense” saying it lasted almost three hours. 

Following Gallant’s comments at the ceremony, National Unity party head Benny Gantz, who is the former defense minister and IDF chief-of-staff, posted a statement to social media supporting Gallant’s call to keep the military out of the protests. 

“I would like to join the call of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and call to leave the IDF out of the protest and out of any political controversy,” Gantz posted. 

However, he also said that the current political situation has caused a rupture among the public, which is being manifested in the army as well. 

“Alongside this, the minister of defense surely knows that the IDF is the people's army, and when the people are torn apart - the IDF is also torn apart, and security is damaged.” 

Gantz called on Gallant to work for the “unity of the people who make up the army.” 

Labor party head Merav Michaeli said, “The government that enacts the evasion law and allows the ultra-Orthodox to evade IDF service by law dares to attack reserve volunteers for not being willing to volunteer and serve in the dictatorship. The irony [of it] was lost.” 

The Brothers in Arms protest group responded to Gallant’s comments as well. 

"Minister of Defense, you said that the legislation tears the people apart and endangers Israel's security. If you want to stop the civil war - stop the legislation. There is only a people's army in a democracy,” they said in a statement.

Some protestors are hoping Gallant will call for a halt to judicial reform legislation once again, as he did in March. A group gathered outside of the defense minister's home on Saturday evening, calling on him to intervene. 

“Gallant, you are our direct commander,” the protesters argued. “You hold the highest security position in the State of Israel. And your job is to protect us from external and internal threats that could undermine the resilience of the country.”

The move by Gallant caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire him, leading to the largest protests against the judicial reforms up to that point. 

Netanyahu later reversed his decision and did not issue the dismissal papers to Gallant. 

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

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