Air Force chief dismisses reservist pilot for urging refusal over judicial shakeup

The chief of the Israeli air force on Thursday dismissed a reserve fighter pilot who is leading calls for refusing to perform duty over the government’s legislative proposals to fundamentally undermine the judiciary.

The move was first reported by Channel 12’s investigative show “Uvda”. The Israel Defense Forces said the reservist officer, Colonel “Gimmel” – who can only be named by his first initials in Hebrew – was dismissed over his “conduct around current events”.

Col. Gimmel, former commander of the Ramat David airbase, gave interviews last week with Channel 13 News and the Cannes Public Broadcaster on reserved concerns over the judicial overhaul.

Colonel Gimmel’s dismissal was announced by IAF chief Major General Tomar Bar after the pair met on Wednesday evening regarding “their continued reserve service”.

“At the end of the conversation, the Chief of the Air Force informed the officer that in light of his conduct, he would not be able to continue serving in the Reserve Army until further notice, as he had acted contrary to guidance. [Air] force and in a manner that is inappropriate for the officer’s rank and position, the IDF said in a statement.

Colonel Gimel can still appeal to IDF chief Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi before his dismissal is made permanent.

Colonel ‘Gimmel’ speaks to the Cannes public broadcaster on March 5, 2023. (Screenshot: Cannes: Used in accordance with section 27A of the Copyright Act)

“The IDF cherishes its reserve service members, and requires them as citizens to act according to their discretion, while keeping them out of any public controversy, in order to maintain the IDF’s capability and public confidence.” I respect their rights.” Army added.

It was the first such dismissal over the judicial overhaul, which has seen a growing number of reservists from several units warning that they will not serve if the coalition goes ahead with its plans to undermine the justice system, which has angered opponents. To say that will leave Israel a weak democracy or even a dictatorship.

Colonel Gimmel’s dismissal came after 37 of the 40 reservist pilots IAF’s 69th Squadron They said they would boycott a day’s training in protest against the judicial reshuffle. The lead squadron – known as the Hammers – operates F-15I fighter jets from the Hatzerim airbase in southern Israel.

FILE: An IAF F-15I fighter jet of the 69th Squadron takes off from Hatzerim airbase in southern Israel, during a pilot graduation ceremony on June 22, 2022. (Emmanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)

On Wednesday, a group of IAF officers warned Halevi that most of his fellow active-reserve pilots would stop reporting for duty if the government passes a judicial overhaul. The warning appeared to be the most far-reaching yet voiced by members of the security forces, as opposition to the government’s judicial overhaul effort deepened in the ranks of the military.

The IDF chief promised to speak with government representatives as well as in the media about the importance of speaking respectfully about military reserve members who have recently opposed the judicial overhaul amid a series of disparaging comments made against them. chose to do. government minister and right-wing activists.

Halevi said that his refusal to report for reserve duty was a “red line” that he would not accept. However, the military chief said that he would “make sure that the actions taken by the IDF are in line with its values ​​and are done legally.”

The latter comment appeared in the context of concerns expressed by pilots who met with Bar last week and told him they would refuse to carry out illegal orders, exemplified by a statement by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. called for the government to “wipe out” the Palestinian people, citing Huwara Village. Smotrich apologized for the remarks again on Wednesday And said he didn’t realize it would be interpreted as a command by officials, who fear there will be no checks on the government’s power if the overhaul passes.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi holds a meeting with reserve soldiers on March 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Reservists who met Bar last week also assured them that they would continue to serve actively, but expressed fears that the new hardline government’s conduct and judicial resolutions could expose them to prosecution by global bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Israel has long argued against such an investigation, pointing to the strength and independence of its own judiciary, which is responsible for investigating incidents of wrongdoing by the Israeli military. But critics of the government’s legal reshuffle warn that efforts to limit the high court’s power will rob the country of legitimacy in the international arena.

Leaders of the military, government and opposition condemned the soldiers’ protest, saying the military should be kept out of politics and warned that mass disobedience would harm national security.

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