IDF: Hundreds of reservists refusing callups, but army ready for war

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visited an air force base to contain the reservist revolt.

IDF reservists sign letters stating they will not show up to reserve service anymore. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
IDF reservists sign letters stating they will not show up to reserve service anymore.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

Hundreds of reservists have officially refused call-ups to protest the government pushing forward with the reasonableness standard bill in the package of judicial reform legislation, the IDF confirmed on Wednesday.

The IDF added, though, based on a review of who the refusers are, in which units they serve, and how many air force combat pilots, aircraft, infantry, and ammunition are available, the military is still fully ready for war.

It further warned that the number of reservists refusing to serve could exponentially increase in the days or weeks to come based on the political developments, but also that the numbers of reservists refusing to serve could be much smaller than how it seems right now.

Not all those who refused call-ups were from the same units. Certain jobs or units missing a little bit of training might have minimal consequences, whereas certain roles, such as combat pilots, could see a quick change in their status, from standard flight status to only flying a simulator. At the same time, if a pilot misses a limited amount of training, they might be returned quickly from simulator status back to flight status.

The military noted that every case would be dealt with on an individual basis, depending on how important and replaceable an individual is. Some may be discharged, some expelled, while others would be only temporarily suspended.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visits Tel Nof Air Force Base amid calls for reservists to refuse to serve. July 19, 2023 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The IDF added that to date, there have not been incidents of infighting within the military over the judiciary debate. It further emphasized that while many reservists may be upset with the government, they will not actually refuse call-ups.

The IDF did not specify how many of the refusers were in the air force but implied that there was a mix.

Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi presented the exact statistics regarding the military’s readiness or unpreparedness to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As well, the Brothers in Arms NGO held an event at 6 p.m. in Tel Aviv near IDF headquarters where thousands of reservists were due to sign a letter refusing their call-ups. They said the bill’s passing into law would “trample the values of the Declaration of Independence and contradict the spirit of the IDF.” Addressing Netanyahu, Gallant, and Halevi directly, they said: “You are violating a social contract with us. Our hearts are in pain, but you left us no choice.”

At the event, members of the infantry and special forces such as IAF Shaldag and Shayetet 13, all announced they were ending their service.

Maj. Batell Blaish-Sultanik, the first female to serve on a Dvora-class patrol boat and a graduate of the navy captain’s course; Yoni Kafuler, a Shayetet 13 combat fighter; Lt.-Col. Eliav Tal; Lt.-Col. Oren Shvil, and many others signed on. Brothers in Arms coleader and special forces member Eyal Naveh said “dictatorship is our redline.”

Not in the air force, but in other parts of the military, around 300 IDF medical officials said they would end their reservist service. Unlike past instances of letters by medical officials, a larger number of senior officials backed their declarations by sharing their names, including Dr. Or Goren, the head of surgery at Ichilov Medical Center, and Dr. Yael Milgram, a gastroenterology expert.

 IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi seen during a visit to the Tel Nof Air Force base in central Israel on July 19, 2023 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi seen during a visit to the Tel Nof Air Force base in central Israel on July 19, 2023 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

IDF chief visits air force base in bid to contain refusals

Halevi visited Tel Nof Air Force Base on Wednesday, as well, telling the air force officials he met that “the IDF was founded on the reserves apparatus since its establishment. Without them, the model of the army of the nation would not have lasted for 75 years. The calls to refuse call-ups harm the IDF.”

The Jerusalem Post has learned that the IDF would cite foreign reports of attacks within Syria this week in terms of the constant need to act, while not taking formal responsibility.

On Tuesday night, airstrikes targeted sites in the Damascus area, injuring two Syrian soldiers, according to the Syrian state news agency, SANA.

Syria media has routinely attributed these attacks to Israel, which has never confirmed them or taken responsibility.

Attacks like these were cited as an example of the IAF’s possible new limitations that may come from reservists refusing to call up for duty, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Halevi’s visit came the morning after 161 air force control officer reservists issued a letter declaring that they would no longer continue their reserve service in protest of the government’s policies.

Initially, the IDF declined to respond. But less than two hours after that, IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar responded with a public letter, saying it is a “complex time period with lots of announcements,” and that he estimated “an intense period of media coverage this coming week.”

He added that “we will clarify the exact details surrounding the letter and its implications. However, the responsibility which remains with us has not changed – to continue the dialogue with our reservists and mandatory service officers.”

Bar added that the IAF has kept Israel safe for 75 years and that the current security challenges are as dangerous as ever and require the air force to remain on its highest guard.

Some viewed the timing of the announcement of the air force reservists as a response to an attack on Tuesday by Halevi.

His attack came against the movement after an increasing number of reservists had already publicized their intention or threat to quit.