Special intel vets plead to halt overhaul, stop attacks on IDF

Air Force suspends several senior reservists as overhaul protests roil military

Suspensions come a day after Navy freezes service of high-ranking reservist who vowed to halt volunteer duty to oppose government’s judicial legislation

File: Israeli Air Force pilots walk to their plane during the 'Blue Flag' international exercise at the Ovda airbase in southern Israel on October 24, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
File: Israeli Air Force pilots walk to their plane during the 'Blue Flag' international exercise at the Ovda airbase in southern Israel on October 24, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Israeli Air Force has suspended several high-ranking reservists, a Friday report said, a day after the Navy suspended a senior reservist who had vowed to halt volunteer duty to protest the government’s judicial overhaul.

IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar agreed to suspend the service of several brigadier generals, the Kan public broadcaster reported, apparently following the lead of the Navy, which suspended Rear Adm. (res.) Ofer Doron on Thursday.

The commanders of the IAF and Navy can either return the high-ranking reservists to service later, or opt to replace them, Kan reported.

The report did not name the IAF reservists who had been suspended, or specify how many of them there were.

Vice Adm. David Sa’ar Salama, the head of the Navy, suspended Doron on Thursday, after he and another top reservist, Rear Adm. (res.) Eyal Segev, announced that they would end their volunteer reserve duty, saying they refused to serve in “a dictatorship.”

Segev’s status was to be examined, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. Doron and Segev both serve as heads of operational headquarters and as deputies to Salama in emergencies.

Israeli Air Force chief Tomer Bar speaks at an event in honor of the 75th anniversary of the IAF’s first-ever strike mission 75 years ago, at the Ad Halom Park near Ashdod, May 29, 2023. (Flash90)

The pair joined a long line of Navy reservists and other officers who have announced in recent weeks that they would stop showing up for volunteer reserve duty, sparking fears within the military of harm to its operational preparedness.

Doron and Segev are above the age of mandatory reserve duty and are exempt from showing up for duty. They were both promoted to the rank of rear admiral several years ago.

Salama’s decision was approved by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the military said.

Also Friday, the organizers of a petition from veterans of special intelligence units appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, asking them to “halt the judicial overhaul, come to an agreement and stop the incitement from the government against the IDF.”

The activists said 1,340 intelligence veterans had signed the petition warning that Israel was in an “unprecedented time of emergency and plunging into the abyss,” Ynet reported.

More than 10,000 reservists who show up for duty on a voluntary basis have said in recent months that they would no longer do so in protest of the judicial overhaul, charging that the government’s plans to weaken the judiciary will turn Israel into an undemocratic country. No official figures have been made available on how many reservists have failed to show up for duty thus far.

Unlike most reservists who are called up for duty with a formal order for several days a year, members of top units, especially pilots, are expected to train and carry out missions more frequently and in a voluntary manner due to the nature of their positions. Many voluntarily continue their reserve duty past the exemption age of 45 for officers and 49 for certain positions.

Israeli military reservists, members of the Brothers in Arms protest group, block the entrance to the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv as they protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, July 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

In recent weeks, Halevi, Air Force head Bar and others have warned that the reservist protests are having an increasingly negative impact on military readiness, drawing rebukes from Netanyahu, other lawmakers, and supporters of the far-right, religious government.

Netanyahu’s coalition has rejected the reservists’ protests as a dangerous and unprecedented form of political blackmail by the military. Some coalition lawmakers suggested the protests are tantamount to an attempted military coup.

Security officials voiced concern on Monday that, by allowing repeated public attacks on top military brass, Netanyahu was trying to shift responsibility onto them over the current harm to the state of military readiness.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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