Amid growing IDF reservist refusal calls, 6,000 sign petition committing to service
‘Leave the army out of the conversation,’ says organizer Oded Harush, a tank commander reservist, as political and military figures work to combat snowballing trend
As growing numbers of prominent IDF reservists have said they would not show up for duty in protest of the government’s judicial shakeup plans, around 6,000 IDF reservists signed a petition affirming their commitment to defend the country.
“We, current reservists representing all parts of the nation, in all ranks and roles, and from the entire political spectrum, continue and will continue to serve as reserve soldiers in the IDF, despite the current fighting in civil society, out of a sense of mission and recognition of the importance of the army in defending the homeland,” the petition stated.
One of the petition’s organizers, Oded Harush, serves as a tank commander in the reserves.
Harush told Channel 12 that he and a friend initiated the petition in response to the increasing number of reserve units indicating a refusal to serve in the IDF if the government persists in pushing ahead with its controversial judicial overhaul.
“We decided to create the petition and within two days there were 4,000 reservists’ signatures; four days later there are 6,000 signatures,” Harush said.
“The statement is very simple — leave the army out of the conversation. It’s the basic security of every citizen in this country, it cannot operate according to an agenda. Without the army, we cannot live, and security is the basis of everything… otherwise, no one will be left here,” said Harush.
“It cannot be that next time I tell my soldiers ‘onward!’ each one will [first] need to check his political opinions,” he added.
Harush said that terrorists do not care whether someone is for or against the government’s contentious judicial reforms: “You’re Jewish and your place is not here, according to them.”
On Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against the growing phenomenon of reserve soldiers threatening not to serve, which has come to dominate the conversation in Israel over the past week alongside mass civilian protests against the government.
Netanyahu claimed that such a move by reservists “threatens the foundations of our existence, and therefore it has no place in our ranks.”
Opposition leaders have also sought to discourage the trend, which has picked up steam in recent days as the coalition moves forward with legislation to radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s power and assert political control over judicial appointments.
Senior opposition figures Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot and Avigdor Liberman have spoken out against reservists’ calls to boycott their duties, though said they understand the sentiments driving their move. Gantz and Eisenkot are both former IDF chiefs of staff.
University student Eviatar Cohen, who served as a fighter in the Givati brigade and now serves as a reservist in the commander training course, signed the petition of reservists pledging to show up no matter what.
Cohen, 23, said reservists should not use their positions of power as defenders of the state’s security to leverage political causes. “It’s simply a disgrace and contrary to the whole idea of a democratic country,” he said.
“If, God forbid, there is a situation in which air force pilots or certain units decide to refuse to defend the State of Israel, there could be far-reaching consequences,” he added.
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi is slated to meet with reserves pilots and air force commanders on Tuesday, and with officers from an array of reserve units on Wednesday, and will highlight the “necessity of preventing calls for refusal,” the IDF said.
Meir Leush, another organizer behind the petition, told Channel 12 that the signatories include reservists of all stripes and colors “looking at the current situation and saying to themselves: ‘How is it that [members of] the army, the most critical place for our continued existence as a nation, are taking steps to refuse service because of a political process?'”
Directly addressing those who have said they will not show up, Leush asked: [Will you] sit at home and watch as rockets fall from every direction, and not go out to protect the country? We’re coming to say, Don’t touch the army and don’t touch the reservists. Leave the political argument outside.”
He added: “Who will protect the state when [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah invades from Lebanon, or when Iran attacks?”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.