Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a planned vacation in the Golan and called a meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the heads of the IDF on Sunday.
The cancelation happened as residents of the village of Ramot called for the prime minister not to visit, citing the disruptions in Neveh Ativ when Netanyahu and his wife stayed there last week.
Yet, the unplanned security meeting on Sunday opened the prime minister’s aborted holiday to speculation that he stayed in Jerusalem to address concerns over the IDF’s preparedness in light of the calls for reservists not to report for duty to protest judicial reform and other government policies.
At the same time, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the meeting with Gallant, the IDF chief of staff, senior members of the IDF General Staff, and the head of the National Security Council was one “like many others in recent weeks.”
Have the judicial reform protests impacted IDF combat readiness?
The participants in the meeting presented the current situation within the IDF in terms of cohesion and preparedness.
“The prime minister expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the IDF to maintain its competence, preparedness, and cohesiveness, and his appreciation for those in mandatory service and reserves. The prime minister thoroughly rejected the phenomenon of conditional reserve service,” the Prime Minister's Office stated.
In addition, the readout of the meeting said that all participants “agreed that political divisions must be left outside of the IDF.”
Earlier Sunday, the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) denied a Channel 12 report stating that they were considering going public, along with the Mossad, with the harm to their readiness from protests against the government’s judicial overhaul.
The Channel 12 report said that the chiefs of all three services were frustrated with Netanyahu for allegedly preventing the security cabinet from receiving updates about the harm to the security services’ readiness and believed they had the right to go over Netanyahu’s head directly to the public to express how dire the situation had become. Further, the report said that the three chiefs wanted to go public before September, when the harm to the air force’s readiness may hit a more critical stage.
The security cabinet has yet to hold a meeting on the topic. Last month, the day that the Knesset repealed the judiciary’s reasonableness standard oversight powers, members of the cabinet, not only Netanyahu, refused to receive an update from the IDF intelligence and operations chiefs before their vote.
In September, the air force will return to full-scale drills and will have to make judgments about which pilots are no longer fly-ready due to having missed a certain number of flight drills. This was an issue that could be avoided in August when many pilots are on vacation or could be categorized as being on holiday.
Both the IDF and the Shin Bet issued statements almost immediately rejecting the report completely and saying that they coordinate all moves with the political echelon. The Jerusalem Post reported soon after that the Mossad also rejected the report; an hour later, the intelligence entity, which does not have its own public spokesperson and is represented in that capacity by the prime minister’s office, issued a statement to that effect.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid accused Netanyahu of avoiding responsibility for any harm to the IDF’s capabilities.
Referring to the statement put out by the Prime Minister's Office, Lapid tweeted that Netanyahu's 'order' to the military that "fitness and cohesion" be maintained was a “shameful and cowardly attempt to escape from responsibility and put the blame on the army and its commanders.”
“The harm to IDF fitness is the direct result of one thing: the destructive process that the Netanyahu government is leading.”