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IAF Chief Says Pilots Refusing Service Over Judicial Revamp Opposition May be Booted

Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, the new chief of the Israeli Air Force, at a ceremony on April 4, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, the new chief of the Israeli Air Force, at a ceremony on April 4, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar reportedly intends to begin booting out reservist pilots who refuse to show up for duty in protest against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, indicating a tougher approach to threats from the most prominent of a wave of reserves soldiers saying they will no longer present themselves for service or training as long at the hardline coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moves ahead with legislation that will dramatically weaken the judiciary system.

The legislation push was temporarily paused last week, after mass protests broke out following Netanyahu’s announced dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over his public warning about the security implications of the coalition’s proposals and his call for a halt to allow for compromise talks. But the opposition is highly distrustful of the overtures as some coalition members have vowed to soon pick up right where they left off after the Passover Knesset recess and push ahead, starting with a bill that will politicize judicial appointments. Compromise talks are taking place under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog. Anti-overhaul protesters, who went out in droves for the 13th consecutive week to rally against the government, have been demanding that instead of pausing the legislation drive, the coalition shelve the bills completely.

Gallant has yet to be formally dismissed, but in his televised address on March 25, he cited “tangible danger” to state security and erosion of Israel’s source of strength — the military- amid the growing rift in society and opposition in the ranks.

According to Channel 12 report on Sunday, the IAF’s Bar recently spoke with senior air force commanders to inform them of this new approach and said any new threats from reservist pilots to not report for duty would be met with sanctions and possible removal from operational activity. Haaretz reported that Bar said it would not be possible to participate in operational activities if pilots miss training, citing a source with knowledge of the conversation.

Reservist pilots train frequently and missing multiple sessions could impact competency.

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