Netanyahu delays vacation, holds security meeting amid concerns over army readiness

Ahram Online , Monday 14 Aug 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday cancelled a planned vacation and instead held an urgent meeting with top brass to assess military readiness amid threats by reservists to refuse to serve in protest of judicial reform and other government policies, according to Israeli media.

Protesters use flares during a rally against the Israeli government s judicial overhaul plan in Tel Aviv on August 12, 2023. AFP


Netanyahu met with Israeli Army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, among other unnamed military generals.

The senior officials "presented the prime minister with a picture of the situation regarding the competence and cohesion in the Israeli army and discussed actions being taken in the field," according to a statement from Netanyahu's office.

Netanyahu instructed them "to maintain the competence and readiness of the army in routine and emergency situations for any challenge."

The prime minister, according to the statement, "completely rejects the phenomenon of conditional reserve service."

"All participants in the discussion agreed that political disputes should be left outside the army," the statement concluded.

Some 10,000 reservists who frequently show up for duty on a voluntary basis said they would no longer do so after the Israeli parliament voted last month to limit the judiciary’s ability to strike down government decisions.

The reservists have warned they would not serve in an “undemocratic” Israel, which some charge the country will become if the government’s judicial overhaul is realized.

The Israeli Kan public broadcaster reported that among the generals present at the meeting was Air Force head Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. On Friday, Tomer Bar warned that the force’s readiness was “worsening” after reserve pilots declared that they would no longer show up for volunteer duty.

Last week, the chief spokesperson of the Israel military acknowledged that the army’s readiness has been harmed and that divisions within the ranks could take significant time to heal.

On Sunday, the army, Shin Bet security service, and the Mossad all unanimously denied a Channel 12 news report earlier the same day that the three services’ chiefs were considering publicly detailing the worsening status of those bodies’ capabilities next month.

The worsening military crisis, fueled by some of the largest protests Israel has ever seen, has threatened to become a back-breaking political liability for Netanyahu.

The prime minister’s right-wing and religious-backed coalition has rejected the reservists’ protests as a dangerous and unprecedented form of political blackmail by the military, according to Times of Israel.

Israel even found itself under pressure from Washington, its traditional bedrock ally, which described the parliamentary vote as "unfortunate" and repeatedly raised concern about the country’s political turmoil.

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