IAF squadron to boycott drills this week over 'judicial reform' move
The Israeli Air Force 69th Squadron, also known as "The Hammers", is also protesting Netanyahu's so-called judicial reforms.
Almost all reservist pilots of the Israeli 69th Squadron announced on Sunday that they will not attend the training session scheduled later this week, in protest of the judicial reforms introduced by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A total of 37 service members of the 40-member squadron said they will skip the exercise as long as the government's overhaul over the judiciary continues, reported Israeli media channel Haaretz on Sunday.
Their announcment comes despite earlier requests made by IAF chief Tomer Bar for the reservists not to take such a step.
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Following a meeting with around fifty senior pilots last Friday, dubbed as "unprecedented" by Israeli media, and during which the air force members expressed concerns over their service in the force, the chief stressed that their commitment to their service remains unchanged.
The Israeli military and air force would operate “according to the moral standards and according to the values and spirit of the IDF — without any change,” Bar said in a letter to the reserve pilots.
“My friends, you are the volunteers for long-term active reserve service. You’re committed, dedicated and willing to sacrifice due to the realization of the heavy task on your shoulders. Our shared responsibility is to maintain the ability of the Air Force, to meet its tasks and to maintain its cohesion and competence,” Bar added.
“I am aware of and attentive to the difficulties and challenges we all face these days."
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The service members informed their commander and Bar that they will not show up for the training, but in case there was a mission, they will report to service.
The reservist members that are active in service expressed fear that the performance of Netanyahu's government might expose them to prosecution by international organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Channel 12.
"On Wednesday, March 8, we will devote our time to discourse and thinking for the sake of democracy and the unity of the people, and therefore we will not report to reserve duty on this day, with the exception of operational activity. During the rest of the week, we will report [for duty] as planned,” the reservists said in a letter to their command, as cited by the Israeli news channel.
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The IAF chief noted that the reservists have been under criticism lately, referring to the government coalition and their supporters.
However, Bar stressed that he will not allow anyone to "defame the pilots."
“I will not lend a hand to those drawing your image in an unfair way. I am committed to you,” he said.
The Israeli occupation army announced on Friday that it was “conducting an ongoing situational assessment and command dialogue in view of the recent events."
Military chief of staff Herzi Halevi instructed officers of the General Staff Forum (Matkal) to discuss matters with each of their units, noting that the current situation will not change the army's readiness to take on operations.
Halevi called on reservists that are taking part in the protests to distance the military from the political discourse.
“Two reservists can stand on both sides of the dispute… They will come to reserve duty, put on their uniforms, leave the controversy outside and go on a mission side by side, shoulder to shoulder,” he said in a Thursday speech.
An entity in schism
Over the past month, divisions within the occupation entity have emerged. The former prime minister of the occupation government, Naftali Bennett, warned of an internal war in "Israel," calling for negotiations on the judicial amendments law.
Thousands of illegal Israeli settlers took to the streets of "Tel Aviv" again on Saturday, marking the ninth consecutive week of protests against the government's judicial overhaul bid.
The latest rally in "Tel Aviv" comes after a similar demonstration took place on Wednesday when Israeli settlers were confronted by the police using stun grenades and water cannons, leading to about 39 getting arrested and 11 others getting injured.
Israeli settlers closed roads and train stations in protest of a draft judicial amendments bill that Benjamin Netanyahu's government is seeking to pass, while Israeli Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened protesters and ordered police to force roads open.