Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday slammed renewed threats by reservists to refuse to show up for duty over the government’s plans to advance its judicial overhaul.
“We must not allow anyone to use the IDF as a tool in political campaigns or as part of inflammatory statements by anonymous people. The calls for refusal and the threats to stop volunteering undermine the basic values of the IDF as the people’s army, and endanger its competence,” Gallant said at a cadets graduation ceremony at the IDF’s officers school in southern Israel, known as Bahad 1.
“Anyone who calls for refusal is not acting as part of a legitimate protest, by doing so he is harming the most important thing we have — the security of the State of Israel,” he said.
“We must all, and especially the elected officials, coalition and opposition alike, denounce and condemn the phenomenon of refusal. It is our duty, as a society that seeks life, to keep the IDF above and outside of any dispute. We have no other army — the IDF belongs to all of us,” Gallant added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also noted the threats by reservists to refuse to show up for duty in his speech.
“We must all come together to defend our country. There is and will be no room for refusal, neither on this side nor on any other side,” he said.
Calls among IDF reservists to refuse to serve due to the government’s legislative efforts roiled the military earlier this year as the overhaul was first announced and advanced, growing in number even as they were condemned by senior politicians in both the opposition and the coalition.
Those calls have again increased in recent days as the government has resumed moving ahead in the Knesset with certain elements of the plan, after largely pausing the legislation several months ago.
IDF chief: Officers must intervene to stop attacks against Palestinians
Also speaking at Wednesday’s ceremony, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said officers must intervene in violence by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the West Bank, following a recent string of settler attacks.
“An officer who sees an Israeli citizen intending to throw a Molotov cocktail into a Palestinian house and stands by cannot be an officer,” Halevi said.
“This is our way, this is our strength here compared to the complex region in which we live, and we must not erode it,” he said.
In the wake of a Palestinian terror attack on June 20, in which four Israelis were killed by Hamas-affiliated gunmen, hundreds of settlers rampaged in Palestinian towns and villages for five days, setting fire to homes, cars, and even opening fire in some cases. One Palestinian was killed Wednesday in unclear circumstances.
In recent years, there have been numerous documented cases of IDF soldiers standing by as settlers attacked Palestinians. In other cases, such as in recent days, IDF soldiers were not present at all, only arriving after the fact and then clashing with the local Palestinian population.
Soldiers are legally permitted — even required in some cases — to intervene to prevent violent attacks, regardless of nationality. The military generally prefers for police to deal with the attacks and settler arrests, but police forces are stretched thin in the West Bank.
Halevi told the new officers that alongside protecting Israel’s borders, foiling Palestinian terror, and fighting in wars, they will “also encounter complex challenges” of settler violence.
“Terrorism and its severe consequences lead some people to commit morally and legally prohibited acts,” Halevi said.
“Whoever berates the IDF should remember that even an apology after the fact does not cancel the great damage caused,” he said in remarks aimed at far-right minister Orit Strock, who on Monday compared Halevi and other security chiefs to Russia’s mutinous Wagner group, after they issued a joint statement condemning the settler rampages as “terrorism.” She later apologized.
“The IDF acts solely for the security of the citizens. The tongue-lashing of those who dedicate their lives to defend harms the security of the citizens,” he added, in an apparent reference to Col. Eliav Elbaz, the commander of the Binyamin Regional Brigade — part of the IDF’s West Bank division — who has come under intense verbal abuse by settlers since the deadly terror attack near the settlement of Eli.
The IDF has deployed additional troops to the West Bank following the attack last week and the subsequent settler rampages.