Netanyahu tells his ministers to tone down criticism of reservists

Two ministers said that reservists who refuse to train because they oppose the judicial reform bills are “not patriots” and should “go to hell,” respectively.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party’s ministers Tuesday to tone down their language even if they are angry that some reservists are threatening not to show up for training due to the government’s planned judicial reforms.

“Refusal to serve is a dangerous phenomenon and should be strongly opposed,” he said. “But even when doing so, even in the heat of the moment, it should be done within the limits of the matter-of-fact discourse. The task of all of us is to calm the spirits down, not inflame them, and this applies to everyone without exception.”

Netanyahu was reacting to specific comments made by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi and Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel-Atbaryan on Monday. Thirty-seven out of 40 reserve fighter pilots in the 69th Squadron announced the previous day that they would not participate in a scheduled training flight on Wednesday.

The prime minister rejected the pilots’ threat. “We have never given refusals a foothold in any situation anywhere,” he stated. “There was no place for refusal in the War of Independence, it had no place in the Oslo agreements and disengagement, there is no place for refusal now.”

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“There is room for protest…for expressing opinions, but there is no room for recalcitrance. Because they give it legitimacy, the scourge will spread and become a [common] method…. The seeds that are sown here can grow wild crops in future disputes.”

Distel-Atbaryan tweeted that the striking pilots “are not patriots. They’re not the salt of the earth. Not Zionists…. Pilots who condition the security of citizens on election results are weaklings’ garbage.”

“I don’t care what they have done for the country, kindergarten assistants also do quite a bit for the country. I despise them,” she added.

Karhi stated that the “insolent reservists” who said they would refuse to serve if the judicial reforms become law should “go to hell” and that “the nation would manage without them.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, National Unity party head Benny Gantz and Yisrael Beyteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman also criticized any refusal on the part of IDF fighters to boycott reserve duty, addding, however, that their concerns are valid.

The pilots had threatened not to show up for the first day of their reserve duty only. Following a meeting between Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, and senior reserve commanders that included those from the air force, a compromise was reached  wherein Wednesday would instead be dedicated to discussing their concerns regarding judicial reform. The rest of their training will be implemented as normal.