On the day after Israel’s coalition unilaterally passed into law the so-called “reasonability bill,” part of its controversial judicial reform plan, Israel Defense Forces senior command is now in uncharted territory.
The IDF General Staff now must wait and see whether the large number of reservists who vowed prior to the bill’s passing that they would cease reporting for duty if it became law without a consensus make good on their threat.
On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi continued his rearguard action against the phenomenon. In an official letter to all soldiers, he reaffirmed the need to discuss “the importance of readiness and cohesion during times of dispute.”
Halevi warned in his letter that, “If we are not a strong, united military, if the best don’t serve in the IDF—we won’t be able to exist further as a country in the region. It is not too late to repair this. We must repair it, because there is no other way except through internal and external cohesion.”
Halevi told the IDF that “we worked to stay outside of the dispute, but in light of its intensity in Israeli society, we found ourselves inside of it, and the cohesion has been harmed. Our duty is to stop the cracks from spreading.”
“When the disputes spread to the ranks of the IDF and create cracks in it, an infantry soldier could mistakenly think that an IAF pilot won’t help him because of this division. An IAF pilot could mistakenly think that it is possible to not prepare and maintain readiness for war, when in fact we could need him soon. These are dangerous cracks,” the letter continued.
The inescapable conclusion is that the Israeli military faces in the coming months the greatest threat to its cohesion, and potentially the greatest threat to its combat-readiness, in its history.
On Saturday, 10,000 IDF reservists declared that they would not report for duty if the government passed the bill in its current form. On Friday, 1,142 Israeli Air Force reserve personnel signed a letter stating the same thing.
That letter included some 500 air crew members as well as command and control personnel, drone operators and special IAF units. The letter, addressed to IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, called for broad agreement on the bill, which was passed by 64-0, with the opposition boycotting the final vote.
IAF reserve pilots are on active duty once a week to once every two weeks to maintain operational readiness, juggling reserve duty with their private-sector roles. If air crews or those serving in the IAF’s operational headquarters, including colonels and brigadier generals, refuse to report for duty, the IDF will lose their invaluable experience, and the IAF’s readiness will suffer.
The IAF can take disciplinary action against reservists who don’t report for duty, but cannot force a reserve pilot or headquarters staff member to fulfill their particular roles.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate