As the protests for and against the judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition heat up, an organization called “Brother’s in Arms” has called for IDF reservists to refuse en masse to serve. While tens of thousands of reservists answered the call, a group of military rabbis sent a letter to the IDF Chief of Staff, urging the recalcitrant reservists to not renege on their “sacred duty.”
Some 200 IDF rabbis wrote a letter to Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi concerning the phenomenon of reservists refusing to serve.
“Serving in the regular and reserve army is a great mitzvah, a national duty, and a rare privilege to serve the people of Israel. As military Rabbis in the reserves who serve in the infantry battalions, in the combat brigades, and in all the field units, we believe that service in the reserves is a sacred duty for the sake of Israel’s security,” wrote the rabbis.
“We are appalled by the statements of some of our comrades in the reserves to condition their service on government actions and the use of army uniforms for the sake of improper political pressure. Israel’s security is not a matter subject to political negotiations. As the Book of Numbers says – ‘Shall your brethren go to war while you remain here?’
“We call on all reserve officers to declare that they will not support refusal to serve, weakening the IDF, or harming Israel’s security. We demand from the reservists who threaten to refuse to recant and continue serving together shoulder to shoulder.”
“We consider it appropriate to state the obvious and pledge that we will continue to serve under any conditions and at any cost, we will come and stand up whenever we are called, ‘for our people and for the cities of our God (Samuel II).”
The political conflict is beginning to include the IDF. A representative of Brothers in Arms told the media last month that there is a plurality of support among reservists, claiming that 30% of the reservists are not reporting for duty. On Wednesday, some 300 reservists in the IDF’s Medical Corps announced that they were suspending their voluntary reserve duty in protest of the judicial overhaul, a day after 161 officers in the air force reserves also said they would no longer volunteer.
Sources in the IDF indicate that the rate of attendance, normally close to 90%, has dropped. In one case, a battalion of the elite 551st Paratroopers Brigade, recently saw only 57% of reservists show up for training on the first day. Others in the IDF have reported only 50% of reservists showing up in several units.
The IDF has said that it would discipline, perhaps even consider dismissing active-duty soldiers who refuse to show up for duty when ordered to. The statement emphasized that no action would be taken against reservists who only threaten not to show up.