200 more pilots to skip weekly training flight over PM’s refusal to halt overhaul


About 200 Israeli Air Force reserve pilots have reportedly informed their unit that they will not be reporting for their weekly flying session next week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday night that the government would go ahead with its plan to reform the judiciary, despite widespread public opposition.

Failure to report to weekly training sessions has serious implications as pilots who miss flying operational missions are not certified.

Among the protesters were pilots from various branches of the IAF including those who fly combat missions, helicopters and transport planes, Channel 12 reported, without citing a source.

Among those who joined the protest on Friday were some of the most senior pilots in the IAF, such as those who carry out missions that Israel does not publicly acknowledge, the report said.

Hundreds of IAF officers and military reservists have taken part in the protests in recent weeks against the hard-line coalition’s attempt to radically curb the power of the High Court of Justice, declaring that they will not report for duty if the restoration. A significant share of the protesting reservists have already stopped reporting for duty, putting more pressure on the government.

The trend has sparked deep concern among the security establishment, which has warned Netanyahu that the operational capacity of the IDF is at risk.

There was some speculation on Thursday that the prime minister would agree to end the overhaul of the legislation, at least temporarily, so that substantial negotiations could be reached to reach a compromise with the opposition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement to the nation regarding the judicial overhaul on March 23, 2023. (Screenshot)

Instead, Netanyahu gave a prime-time address in which he said his government will continue to lead the plan “responsibly,” aiming to pass a key tenet of the overhaul next week.

He said the coalition government will advance one of the most important elements of the plan next week – a bill to put key Supreme Court appointments directly under coalition control. Netanyahu argued that “we don’t want a controlled court, we want a balanced court.”

The speech led to a letter on Friday from Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara informing the Prime Minister that he had breached a conflict of interest agreement, which allowed him to rule during his ongoing corruption trial, and asked his statements on Thursday night and any other connection. the coalition’s judicial reform “illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest.”

Increasingly, reservists – who are an integral part of the army’s normal activities, including in the highest units – have warned that they will not be able to serve in a democratic Israel, which they accuse the country of which will come under the government’s plan.

Military brass have insisted that the armed services must stay out of any political fight, but numerous reports have shown that the phenomenon is only growing.

The result of Netanyahu’s speech also intensified the protests of the reserves against the government.

The IAF officers decided to stop attending training sessions for two weeks before re-evaluating, the network said.

Organizers of the protest told the Ynet news site on Friday that Netanyahu’s speech the night before was a starting point for many pilots who had until then stopped participating in the protests.

Also on Friday, 100 IDF doctors wrote a letter to IDF top brass informing them that they would no longer be reporting for reserve duty as a result of the continued progress of judicial reform.

The military doctors said they had contacted several weeks earlier urging the military leadership to act against the implementation of the “coup d’état,” and then warned that they would not be able to continue serving if it was implemented. .

“It is a great disappointment to us that not only has the legislative race not been stopped but it has intensified, despite the growing societal rupture and despite warnings from experts in various fields.”

Accordingly, the military doctors said they would be quitting their reserve service immediately and enlisting instead in the fight for democracy.

On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that the IDF had already identified a significant drop in the number of ground force troops reporting for reserve duty.

In the elite 551st Paratroopers Brigade, only 57 percent of reservists reported for duty this week — a significant drop from the normal muster count of 90%, according to a report Wednesday. The unit had hoped for a 78% assembly rate among its 700 reservists amid opposition to the government’s attempt to radically curtail the power of the Supreme Court, but army officers were alarmed to learn that the scope of the protest went much further than expected.

The 551st Brigade is one of two reserve battalions in the IDF’s 98th Division.

“It’s far from anything we imagined we’d have in the end, and it’s not easy to accept,” a military source told the paper.

File: Israeli reservists, veterans and activists protest outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, against the government’s proposed judicial reform, on February 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Separately on Wednesday, Channel 12 reported that non-commissioned officers in the Special Operations Division of Military Intelligence have informed the IDF that they plan to cancel their contracts if the judicial reform is passed. The officials rejected the new proposal now being put forward to redo the Judicial Appointments Committee, dismissing the coalition’s claim that it is a “diminution” of its position.

The officials will pay a fine if they cancel their contracts, but a representative told Channel 12 it was a price they were willing to pay.

Earlier in the day, Channel 12 reported that 700 reservists in the Nahal Brigade sent a letter to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi urging them to do everything in their power to stop the judicial reform . “This is a violation of the social contract. This is not the way of the State of Israel,” they wrote.

At the same time, 100 recently discharged armored corps officers wrote their own letter to security chiefs warning that “some of us will stop reporting for reserve duty if the coup d’état goes ahead.”

In another letter reported by Haaretz, 100 senior IAF reservists announced that they would cease reporting for non-emergency service due to the overhaul.

They joined the 180 pilots, 50 controllers and 40 drone operators who had already taken such a step.

Members of the IDF reserve organization “Brothers in Arms” hold a press conference in Tel Aviv, March 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s coalition, a collection of right-wing, ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, has advanced legislation aimed at weakening the court’s ability to serve as a check on parliament, as well as giving control to the government appointed judges. There have been mass weekly protests for more than two months against the proposed legislation, with growing protests from prominent public figures including the president, jurors, business leaders and more another.

In addition, soldiers have expressed concern that a lack of international confidence in the independence of Israeli judges could expose them to prosecution in international tribunals for actions they were ordered to take during service.

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