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Israel: dozens of reserve pilots refuse to train in protest at judicial review

March 6, 2023 at 8:56 am

An Israeli F-16 jet takes off on December 9, 2014 at the Ovda airbase in the Negev Desert near Eilat, southern Israel [Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images]

Of the 40 reservists in the Israeli Air Force’s 69th Squadron, 37 said on Sunday that they would not show up to one of their planned training sessions on Wednesday in protest of the government’s plan to radically restrict the power of the country’s judiciary. The reservists notified IAF commander General Tomer Bar and their squadron leader of their intention, but said that they would report for duty if required for operational duties.

“On Wednesday, 8 March,” said the reservists in their letter, “we will devote our time to discourse and thinking for the sake of democracy and the unity of the people, and therefore we will not report to reserve duty on this day, with the exception of operational activity. During the rest of the week, we will report [for duty] as planned.”

Former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot MK called for military personnel to keep the Israeli army “away from bickering”. “As a citizen and as a Knesset member who opposes the judicial coup, I urge you to refrain from missing out on training,” he added.

Last month, army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi called on the reservists to remain neutral and not be involved in the protests.

A letter sent by General Bar to all IAF reservists on Friday was leaked to the media. “I respect the doubts [you might be having],” he wrote. “However, my expectation as IAF commander, like the expectation of the commanders alongside me, is that you will continue to report to your units for duty; that you will continue to serve and fulfil your commitment to your unit, to your subordinates and to your commanders, to the State of Israel, to its security and the protection of its citizens.”

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