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Netanyahu warned that spread of protests may harm army efficiency

March 6, 2023 at 11:33 am

People holding Israeli flags gather outside Knesset to protest against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu over plans to pass controversial judicial reforms in Jerusalem on March 01, 2023. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been warned that the spread of the protests by army reservists may harm the efficiency of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Channel 12 reported on Sunday evening. The warning was issued by Chief of Staff General Herzi Halevi after dozens of air force reservists announced that they will not turn up for training on Wednesdays.

According to Israeli public broadcaster Kan 11, Halevi made it clear in talks with Netanyahu and Minister of Security Yoav Gallant that the protests against the government’s proposed judicial reforms could expand and harm the IDF’s operational capabilities. “I’m very worried by the spread of the refusal to serve,” Halevi told the prime minister, “and of the discussion about the refusal to serve. Already, this could harm the IDF’s operational capacity.”

The reports noted that Halevi said it was wrong to brand the protesting reservists as “anarchists”. He pointed out that it was very offensive to those responsible for the country’s security. Around 50 per cent of the air strikes by the Israeli Air Force, said Kan 11, are apparently carried out by reserve pilots.

Gallant warned of the impact of the protest movement on the readiness of the IDF. “We face heavy and complex external challenges. Any call for refusal harms the functioning of the IDF and its ability to carry out its tasks.” The situation today, he added, requires the authorities to talk, and quickly. “I call upon every soldier and officer: The IDF is the protector of Israel, and the reserve army is the source of its great power. Leave the political debate outside of the army.”

Walla! news site quoted an unnamed informed source on Sunday who said that Halevi and other senior officers in the IDF fear that if the protests against the government plan to weaken the judiciary continue “there will be no one to fly Mabam missions.” Mabam is a Hebrew acronym for the “campaign between the wars” and is a reference to military operations that are carried out against Iranian targets and Hezbollah in Syria.

Earlier on Sunday, 37 pilots out of 40 serving in the Air Force’s 69th Squadron, known as the Hammers, announced in a signed joint statement that they would be boycotting the Wednesday exercises. The squadron operates the F-15I fighter jets out of the Hatzerim Airbase in Beersheba.

It was reported on Sunday evening that the Israeli Air Force does not intend to take disciplinary measures against the pilots beyond holding personal talks with them, as long as the protests do not affect the efficiency of the air force.

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