The IDF reservist fighter pilots of the Air Force’s 69th fighter squadron agreed to drop their threat to strike from training on Wednesday as part of a compromise in which that training would be altered to consist of discussions with their commanders about their objections to the government's judicial overhaul.
The announcement came after a parallel meeting on Wednesday between Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi on one side and high-level reservist commanders, including some from the air force, on the other side, to try to avoid an escalation in the reservist strike crisis.
It was unclear if Gallant and Halevi had fully turned the tide on the reservist strike threat on Wednesday, or merely bought time for a compromise, without which the reservist strike threat could intensify.
"We are responding to the call of our commanders and will report to the unit tomorrow to hold discussions among the fighters. We have full confidence in the commanders and will continue to serve the Jewish and democratic State of Israel as long as it is necessary," the pilots stated.
In the evening, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and the Commander of the Air Force met with 18 commanders of various Air Force squadrons to continue discussions about the reservist strike.
"The security of the State of Israel and the readiness of the IDF rely on you - the reserve men. For this very reason, we need to go out together with a clear statement - refusal is not on the agenda," Halevi said.
"In recent days I have been hearing condemnations and offensive statements towards our reserve soldiers. These statements are unacceptable and have no place, certainly not towards those who risk their lives in operations in all sectors and show up to every cross-border sortie. We must 'close ranks' in the face of our common task of maintaining the security of the State of Israel," Halevi closed.
Thirty-seven reservist fighter pilots out of the 40 stationed at the Israel Air Force’s 69th fighter squadron had previously declared their intention not to turn up for regular training flights on Wednesday in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul.
The pilots' protest
Lt.-Col. “N” from the 69th squadron, with 20 years of service, said on Sunday, “The pilots of Squadron 69 will continue to serve the Jewish and democratic Israel, beyond the borders of the enemy at all times.” However, he added, “like during other significant events which impact the pilots and require dialogue, we decided to stop for one day of scheduled training to talk about the worrying processes which the state is experiencing.”
Gallant issued a statement following Wednesday's meeting in which he said, "the word 'refusal' needs to be kept out of the public discourse. Refusal erodes the most fundamental foundations of the existence of the State - security - and we cannot allow this."
"Threats to refuse [IDF service] are playing with fire and we need to leave the IDF beyond any debate - protesting against the government cannot permit actions against the state."Yoav Gallant
"Threats to refuse [IDF service] are playing with fire and we need to leave the IDF beyond any debate - protesting against the government cannot permit actions against the state," said Gallant.
The defense minister said that he supported all IDF reservists no matter their political ideology, adding, "the IDF cannot operate without its reservists and there is an entire [military] framework based on the reservist apparatus."
This last statement seemed like pushing back on some of Gallant's fellow coalition ministers who had strongly condemned the IDF reservists' threat to strike, even saying the IDF reservists were not needed for Israel's national security anymore.