Politicians slam pro-Netanyahu reservist’s ‘dangerous’ call for mutiny; suspect held

PM puts out statement insisting he’s ‘consistent’ in denouncing insubordination, after being condemned for not responding sooner to inflammatory video that was shared by his son

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

A screenshot of a video purporting to show an IDF reservist in Gaza threatening mutiny, published on May 24, 2024. (Screencapture/X: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot of a video purporting to show an IDF reservist in Gaza threatening mutiny, published on May 24, 2024. (Screencapture/X: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The publication of a video of an apparent Israel Defense Forces reservist threatening mutiny if the government doesn’t pursue “complete victory” over Hamas sparked strong condemnations on Saturday — as well as harsh criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not responding to it sooner.

The military said it had opened a criminal probe into the video. On Sunday, the IDF said a suspect was being interrogated by Military Police. The investigation was ongoing, the military added.

The clip, which was first shared on social media by the staunchly pro-Netanyahu journalist Yinon Magal and later reposted by Netanyahu’s son Yair, showed an armed and masked infantryman vowing to refuse Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s orders and asserting that soldiers will only listen to Netanyahu.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the video is for you. We reservist soldiers do not intend to hand the keys over to any Palestinian authority. We do not intend to give the keys to Gaza to any entity — Hamas, Fatah or any other Arab entity,” the soldier declared.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; you have 100,000 reservist soldiers that are ready to give their lives for the people of Israel. Ready to die. We lost everything, we lost our family life, we lost our livelihoods and we have nowhere to go. We will stay here, until the end. Until the victory,” the reservist soldier states.

“Yoav Gallant, you can’t win the war. Quit. You can’t win this war. You can’t command us,” the apparent reservist says.

His message came a week and a half after Gallant went on television to tell Netanyahu that he would not consent to any Israeli civil or military governance of Gaza, and that governance by Palestinian entities that aren’t Hamas, accompanied by international actors, is in Israel’s interest.

In response, far-right members of Netanyahu’s coalition called for his ouster — with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir falsely claiming that from Gallant’s perspective “there is no difference between whether Gaza is controlled by IDF soldiers or whether Hamas murderers control it.”

Neither Ben Gvir nor fellow ultranationalist Minister Bezalel Smotrich had commented publicly on the video as of Saturday evening.

Netanyahu did not immediately respond to the video, which began to make headlines over Shabbat, prompting outgoing Labor chair Merav Michaeli to accuse the prime minister of supporting its message.

“Just as they led a regime coup from within the democratic institutions, now they are encouraging an attempted mutiny within the IDF,” Michaeli tweeted, referring to the government’s push to overhaul the judiciary.

“For Netanyahu, a call to ignore the IDF chief of staff and the minister of defense and follow only him is [a Sabbath delight] but condemning that call would a desecration of the Sabbath and a desecration of the right to be above the law,” she charged.

“We are not only in an existential war against Hamas. We are in an existential war for our democratic country against messianic Bibist forces that are gnawing away at us from the inside,” she added, employing Netanyahu’s nickname.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid at a rally for the hostages in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2024. (Elad Gutman)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid warned that videos calling for rebellion within the Israeli military were “dangerous and disastrous,” regardless of whether they were authentic or staged.

In a post on X, Lapid said the “enthusiastic” sharing of the video by Netanyahu supporters demonstrated “another attempt to escape responsibility by the one who led to the biggest disaster in the history of the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” referring to the premier’s repeated refusal to accept responsibility for the October 7 atrocities.

“This insanity should be stopped. This government needs to be removed from our lives before it destroys everything that is true and sacred to this country,” he wrote.

Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is held hostage in Gaza, addresses protesters on Begin Street, Tel Aviv, April 27, 2024. (Paulina Patimer/Hostages and Missing Families Forum)

Addressing a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan was kidnapped on October 7, slammed Netanyahu for “sabotaging deals” to return the hostages home.

“While the prime minister’s son is encouraging a rebellion in the IDF, my son is held hostage,” she said.

On Saturday evening, a senior official, speaking anonymously to Channel 12, said that Yair Netanyahu’s sharing of the video constituted “a clear call for rebellion against the IDF command.”

“The prime minister in his deafening silence, hour upon hour, backs up this grave act,” the source insisted.

Only minutes later, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying that Netanyahu had “warned many times about the dangers of the phenomenon of insubordination and the permissive attitude towards it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attend a press conference at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

Netanyahu made similar statements against “insubordination” when elite reservists stopped showing up for volunteer duty last year in protest of his government’s plans to upend the judicial system.

Without directly referring to either the video or his son, the statement added that Netanyahu has been “consistent” in his position on insubordination and that he “rejects outright any refusal from any side.”

The prime minister expects “all systems to treat [those who refuse] equally,” it said.

Shortly after the Prime Minister’s Office released its statement, Minister Benny Gantz — who along with Gallant is one of three voting members of the war cabinet — called on Netanyahu to more clearly denounce calls for insubordination.

“In the IDF, as the people’s army, soldiers from all parts of Israeli society serve, with a variety of views and beliefs – but there is only one top command rank: the chief of staff,” Gantz said.

“Expressing support for the call for rebellion during wartime, or in general, as in the video published yesterday, harms Israel’s security,” the former IDF chief of staff warned, calling on Netanyahu to “clearly and unambiguously condemn the seditious video and not to hide behind a laundromat of words.”

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference in Ramat Gan, May 18, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Like Gallant, Gantz has recently sparred with Netanyahu over his management of the war in Gaza.

In a televised statement last Saturday, Gantz, whose National Unity party joined the government in the wake of October 7, issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu, threatening to withdraw from the coalition unless the premier committed to an agreed-upon vision for the Gaza conflict by June 8.

Among Gantz’s demands was the creation of “an international civilian governance mechanism for Gaza, including American, European, Arab and Palestinian elements.”

And in another direct challenge to Netanyahu less than a week later, Gantz on Thursday called for the immediate establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the failures that led to Hamas’s devastating onslaught of October 7.

Gantz’s statement came only hours after the IDF, in response to a freedom of information request, revealed that the prime minister had received multiple communiques from Military Intelligence in the spring and summer of 2023 warning him about how the country’s enemies viewed that year’s mass political upheaval.

Emanuel Fabian and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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